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Grand Traverse, MI : County Meetings to be Broadcast & Archived

August 20, 2008
Original Publication by Brian McGillivary
Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY -- Grand Traverse County's leaders for years refused to televise their public meetings, but a sudden embrace of cutting-edge technology will allow citizens a close look at county decision-making.

Grand Traverse will become the first county in Michigan and the state's third community to broadcast meetings live on the Internet and archive them online in a searchable format.

Web-based video-streaming will allow viewers to search meeting videos by using key words.

The new system will debut at a Sept. 2 meeting.

"An informed public makes better choices, that's what it's all about," said county Commissioner Christine Maxbauer.

The county board finally relented in its refusal to televise its meetings in January after Maxbauer, elected in 2006, began taping meetings herself and broadcasting them on public access television and her own Web site.

Now the county will pay New York based IQM2 Intelligent Meeting Management $33,300 over three years for live streaming, archiving and meeting management tools.

Initially, the county will stream its five monthly committee meetings and the county board meeting. It may eventually add meetings of other related boards.

The IQM2 software allows viewers to jump to specific agenda items of a meeting video while simultaneously viewing the written minutes and accessing the same background documents commissioners have on their desks. Viewers also will be able to search up to a year of county board and committee meetings by keyword.

"It will be really helpful and save everyone a lot of time, the public and staff," said Katie Lowran of the county administrator's office.

The software is supported by most Internet browsers but viewers will need broadband access and Windows Media Player to view the video.

Video streaming of public meetings has become popular in many communities, an access-to-government tool younger generations have come to expect, said IQM2 founder Daryl Blowes.

"It's definitely becoming a major component of open government," Blowes said. "A lot of the time these meetings happen at a place or a time that normal people can't attend, so if they are talking about putting up windmills in my backyard it allows me to participate, even if I can't attend the meetings."

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