We Can’t Hear You!

Open Letter to the City of Winter Park

Editor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.  

We Can’t Hear You!

Guest Columnist Jim Fitch

The September 24 Winter Park Commission meeting was an embarrassment to the City of Winter Park. Taxpayers, who fund all City operations one way or another, attend these meetings in order to be informed. The City needs to be more respectful of citizens whose taxes keep the City running and whose votes elect the Commission.

Hearing & Seeing = Believing

It is very difficult for those of us who regularly attend the twice-monthly Commission meetings to hear, to see or to understand the proceedings. It is hard to believe this is intentional – even when controversial topics like The Canopy are being discussed.

Full Names, Please

City staff making presentations frequently fail to state their full names and positions. They are known to the Commission (e.g., “Troy”), but there is often a failure to inform the audience. Most presenters address their remarks to the Commissioners and not to the public.

Don’t Ignore the Microphones

The Mayor mumbles, the City Manager mumbles and Commissioners Seidel and Cooper do not speak into their microphones. The result is that the audience must strain to hear the discussion – and is completely left out of the side banter between Mayor Leary and Commissioner Sprinkel. Only Commissioners Sprinkel and Weldon speak clearly enough to be understood.

Make the Visuals Visible

Even though the Commissioners have laptops and document packets in front of them, they sometimes seem ill-informed about what is going on. Document screen shots projected for the public are, more often than not, too small to be legible. No laser pointers are used – Mayor Leary says it would only cover one of the two screens.

If the presenter’s lectern were placed in the center of the room in front of the dais, the presenter could use a laser pointer on both screens.

Appoint a ‘Listener’

The City should also place a listener at the back of the chamber to monitor audio levels and alert the Commissioners and presenters when their remarks cannot be heard. Presenters and Commissioners alike should pay attention to the public when people in the audience signal that they cannot hear.

We Need New Mikes

The City should invest in higher quality wide angle microphones or individual lavalier microphones, rather than the uni-directional ones now in use, so that the official discussion, as well as the side banter, is clearly audible to the audience.

If It’s a Public Meeting, Citizens Deserve to Be Able to Hear & See
Not only are the current practices disrespectful to the citizens of Winter Park, they are a violation of the Sunshine Law. This is an easy fix – please do something to correct this situation.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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10 replies
  1. Kathy says:

    All good points, most of them easily executed courtesies.
    I am especially bothered by the poor resolution and color quality of the overhead visual screens. By now we should have a giant high-definition monitor directly facing the audience.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Steve Scivally says:

    I’ve heard the phrase city of the future, after the proposed changes are implemented, could we stream the session?

    Reply
  3. WPspan says:

    Good points! I also wonder could the meetings be broadcast live on the city website?? Like Cspan but WPSpan.

    Many schools, daycares (and even doggie daycares) offer the ability to login to their website and watch live. It can’t be that much of an expense. We likely have IT on staff who can easily set it up.

    Reply
  4. WP Eagle Eye says:

    “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” – Vladimir Lennon

    It appears that Mr. Leary and Mr. Fitch are working together to attempt to distract residents from serious issues of substance and to focus residents’ attention on trivial matters of form.

    It won’t work. But we can’t blame them for trying.

    Reply
  5. Future is Now says:

    Commission meetings currently are live streamed. You cannot see the visuals on projector screens- ever- but you can see the meetings. If you do not have the bandwidth you can listen to the audio. Live.

    Reply
  6. Ear to the Ground says:

    The City Commission meetings are already broadcast live over the internet and recorded both in video and audio format and can be found on the City website under the “Government” tab.

    You can turn the volume up or down on your computer, whichever you prefer.

    You can watch or listen online live, or at your convenience.

    There are much more important matters that need the attention of residents today in Winter Park than this.

    Curious as to the folks who have commented so far. Do you support the new library?

    Would you like residents to become active and organized about this topic by displaying yard signs that say “Speak Up”

    Do you believe that the audio quality at City Commission meetings is the most urgent matter residents face today regarding how our City is being governed?

    Mr. Fitch does, however, make a good point about the Sunshine Law. The mayor and Commissioner Sprinkel should not be having sidebar conversations, whispering in each others ear during City Commission meetings. I don’t know that this is specifically prohibited in the Sunshine Law, but if it isn’t it should be.

    Otherwise, let’s use this blog in a more constructive way, to guess what they might be saying during their secret conversations, such as:

    Leary: “Where are drinks tonight?”

    Sprinkel: “I’m ready.”

    I mean, if they aren’t speaking loud enough for us to hear, can they blame us if we make a guessing game out of it?

    Reply

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