ES council votes to resume broadcasts

Friday, February 2, 2018

Eureka Springs citizens can tune in to city meetings once again.

On Monday night, the Eureka Springs City Council voted to overturn its Jan. 8 decision to discontinue broadcasting all city meetings on Channel 21 and sharing council meetings on Youtube. Mayor Butch Berry placed a reconsideration of that vote on the agenda at the beginning of Monday’s meeting, saying he had received comments from citizens asking for that to happen.

Some of those citizens spoke at the meeting during public comments, starting with LauraJo Smole. Smole said she was upset when she heard the council voted to stop broadcasting the meetings.

“The first thought that came to my head was, ‘What were they thinking?’ ” Smole said. “Then I found out there was no finding out what you were thinking, because a motion was made and it was voted upon. There was no discussion.”

She added, “I find it very interesting that without discussion it was a unanimous vote. It’s somewhat disturbing to know the council is willing to make major decisions without any discussion about them.”

Harold Meyer agreed, saying he objects to the discontinuation of broadcasting.

“Even a member who requires a special hearing device to be able to hear the meeting voted for stopping captioning,” Meyer said. “I question the motives behind this. I don’t believe it was because of the cost.”

It seems the council members were retaliating against citizens who have been pushing for ADA compliance, Meyer said. Cameron DeNoewer said a group of citizens had been talking about raising money to pay for closed captioning on the meeting recording.

“Instead, you make a hasty decision without stopping, asking questions, embracing your community, embracing your resources, asking for help to solve this problem to make everybody happy,” DeNoewer said. “Now, we have a bunch of angry people based on hasty decisions. Once again, the people at this table are not doing due diligence looking at their local resources and asking for help.”

He continued, “You never stopped to think, ‘How can the citizens help us?’ If it’s important to the citizens, we can help you. We want to help you. If any of y’all lose your hearing, you’re going to wish you had closed captioning.”

Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick said she was proud of the council for moving city meetings to The Auditorium, where council members have to face their constituents. The greatest point of discord for the council, Kendrick said, was meeting in the courthouse jury room where citizens couldn’t attend. Another factor, she said, is the broadcasting of council meetings.

“Certain council members relish playing to the camera and certain members of the community love watching the reality show certain council members love starring in,” Kendrick said. “Now, the council is no longer meeting in the jury room and citizens can attend council meetings. As long as council is broadcasting meetings, citizens will have no incentive to attend and the televised slugfest will continue.”

Kendrick moved to stop recording all city meetings, with the only record being kept through the minutes. When no one seconded her motion, it died. Alderwoman Melissa Greene moved to resume broadcasting all meetings, and alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she agreed with that. She left early when the council voted to stop broadcasting, Schneider said, and she wouldn’t have voted in favor of it.

“What you’re doing by cutting off all broadcasting, and I do understand it’s all or nothing … what you’re doing is you are alienating and cutting off an awful lot of this town,” Schneider said. “I have friends who are working in a shop on Monday nights. The only way they can stay up with what’s going on is to watch it on a little teeny TV they bring to the shop.”

Greene said she looked at the city’s Youtube channel and saw a surprising number of views on the council meeting videos.

“It’s about three quarters of our population. That told me people are actually watching those,” Greene said.

The council voted, with everyone agreeing to resume broadcasting except for Kendrick.

“We will begin rebroadcasting,” Berry said.

Also at the meeting, the council heard from Berry about the lease for Dr. Beard’s office on Norris Street. Berry said Beard has a month-by-month lease until the city attorney can draw up something else. That location is one of the places considered for the new city meeting room, alderman David Mitchell said, and he moved to renovate the building so the city could hold meeting there. The council voted, with Kendrick, Mitchell, Terry McClung and Greene voting for it and Bob Thomas and Schneider voting against it.

The council gave the hospital commission the OK to spend $141,000 on a piece of property adjoining the hospital for the upcoming renovations and deferred an ordinance adding planning recommendations to the code.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at The Auditorium.

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