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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why There's No Video of NorCo Council

Before the move to Courtroom 1
Some of you are wondering why you were unable to livestream Thursday night's Council meeting. It was turned off. Deliberately. And it was my fault, too. Before you string me up, let me explain.

I am a Sunshine Act fanatic. It's one of the few good things to come out of the land of midnight payraises. Though state legislators naturally exempted themselves, they require pretty much every other governing body to deliberate and vote in public. In addition, residents or taxpayers have the right to address these officials on "matters of concern" before any action is taken.

Last night, Council chambers were packed. People from all over the County were there. Corrections officers, Gracedale workers, row office and revenue clerks and Human Services caseworkers, By the time the meeting had started, there were well over 300 people. They had filled up the seats and were even lined up along the walls. Moreover, there were 22 people standing outside in the hallway, and they would be unable to hear or comment..

"Hey Bernie, why don't you give up your seat to one of the women?" taunted Mary Ann Schmoyer, who disrupted numerous meetings when John Stoffa was Executive. I had something else in mind.

I objected.

Under the Sunshine Act, any person has the right to object to a perceived violation.

Over the years, reporters have usually raised these objections. But newspapers are dying. Last night, for example, The Morning Call failed to send anyone to cover a fairly critical meeting.

To their credit, County Council immediately agreed to move the meeting to Courtroom No. 1, which can accommodate larger crowds. In fact, the member of Council I criticize most frequently on this blog, Lamont McClure, made the motion.

The only concern Peg Ferraro had was that people at home would miss the livestream. My response is that the Sunshine Act gives people the right to participate, be present and comment, and there is no state law requiring a video. If one thing has to give, it would be the video.

After everyone moved into Courtroom No. 1, all those who wanted to speak were able to do so.

I thought the large audience, though loud, made every attempt to be respectful.

There were two exceptions.

While Executive John Brown was presenting his plan in more detail, one woman insisted on trying to talk over him.

"Can he shut up already?" she shouted at one point.

The second disruption occurred after the public had spoken, Controller Steve Barron, who had been sulking in the back, interrupted Mat Benol when he pointed out that the HR Director stated last year that the County's health care plan was a Cadillac plan.

"She was wrong then and she's wrong now," yelled Barron, who just two weeks ago stated he was unsure himself whether the County's health care plan is a Cadillac plan.

He was pandering.

After the move to Courtroom 1

Updated 11:00 a.m.: Turns out that The Morning Call had Christy Potter, a freelancer, cover the meeting. Sorry Christy.


Anonymous said...

I thought Zbarron was out of line last night. It's embarrassing to see and I didn't like it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bernie

Anonymous said...

We missed the power point that was intended to shock tax payers with numbers that do not include the revenue recieved from state and federal sources for employees salaries and benifits. Even the fast food industry spend 30 - 39% of revenue on employees salaries and benifits and many dont include health heath care. Those numbers are meant to sway staff and taxpayers to believe they have no choice but to slash health care. Get the real numbers! Stop giving the staff and public BS.

Anonymous said...

You will Never get the truth from John brown. He is an inherant liar. It started as mayor in Bangor, with the firing of police chief. He used lies, fraud and more lies. He hates law enforcement.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I thought Zbarron was out of line last night. It's embarrassing to see and I didn't like it."

I support employees when they are right, and in this instance, they are. Unfortunately, Barron is interested only in helping barron. As Controller, he has to stay out of policy discussions, but could not do that because there were too many union votes.

Anonymous said...

My response is that the Sunshine Act gives people the right to participate, be present and comment, and there is no state law requiring a video. If one thing has to give, it would be the video.

Does the sunshine act make a provision for the disable? The meeting is advertised as available live on the internet. Should the meeting have been rescheduled until the county made arrangements to stream it live from courtroom 1. The technology could be reuse for future inaugurations. The public should not have to rely on a biased media's account.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Even more important than bias is accuracy. You have just demonstrated inaccuracy. Nothing in the legal ads indicates that meeting are on video. You have also displayed laziness. Nothing in the Sunshine Act, which is online and readily available, makes provisions for the disabled. To cancel and reschedule the meeting would require paying for another ad and would piss off the 200 or so people who came and had the right to be heard. What they can do is establish an overflow room for meetings they know are going to be crowded, and have the video piped in.

Anonymous said...

Deja vu all over again. Shades of the Gracedale courtroom hearing when Barron went vote hunting with all the employee's howling for a halt to the proposed sale. He should be ashamed of himself. John Schimmel would never have done the things this clown does. Horrible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

During the Gracedale dispute, Barron spoke out during courtesy of the floor. Here he lashed out from the back of courtroom 1, long after courtesy of the floor was over.