[Update: 6:10 pm, Jul 24th. I have learned from a reliable source that in Bellingham both committee meetings and the evening council meetings are housed on YouTube which is a part of the system, On Base/Hyland Software, that the city and many other governmental entities across the US use to manage the meetings and agendas. It seems that this software uses YouTube which, in essence “forces” Bellingham meeting videos and other recordings to appear on the YouTube platform. This is even more disquieting since YouTube essentially controls the viewing platform all our public video although the city ostensibly retains back-ups. I note in a brief web search that not all users of On Base/Hyland Software are pushed onto YouTube as you will find with the City of Sioux Falls (click here) where the system does not seem to use YouTube. ]
“The video of the July 12 regular meeting of the Bellingham City Council was removed from YouTube today (July 15, 2021) for violations of YouTube’s terms of service. (See YouTube’s COVID misinformation policy). The violation occurred as part of testimony shared by members of the public during the public comment period of the July 12 meeting.” [From: YouTube removes July 12 City Council video due to content of public comments]
From what I see at the moment, this is a colossally ham-handed action by YouTube regarding what ought to be obvious even to the most obtuse reviewer: that this is a governmental meeting during which information is gathered and discussed; even incorrect, inane, dangerous, half-witted, or manifestly false information. If truth and fact were required in videos from the dais or commenter podiums of any legislative body on any topic whatsoever, then very few videos would ever get posted. Moreover, the U.S. Congress would have to cease operations, especially given the outright lies and misrepresentations that emanate from that body minute by minute.
More importantly, why have we allowed ourselves to be held hostage by a private website in order to host public meeting and public record content? Is this a money saving measure the consequence of which is that we lose control of our own information? This lopsided and quasi-Faustian relationship ought to be re-examined and severely so. I note that all council committee meetings are posted to a local link at meetings.cob.org. Why are the evening meetings of full council not available in the same manner? I have one suggestion to the city with respect to dealing with YouTube, an entity akin to a spoiled teenager whose wisdom must be acknowledged and whose every command must be obeyed. The sooner the city rids itself of this obnoxious appendage, the better.
[Note: I am in NO WAY condoning the specific content of the highly questionable remarks on COVID that were presented during the public comment period on July 12th. Most were tired, dangerous, and well-refuted claims that did not merit further exposure. But once said at a public meeting and recorded as a public record, the content cannot be altered. This includes the weird and inappropriate reference by commenter Natalie Chavez regarding a physician being “a humble Jewish doctor,” as if this stereotypical description had anything at all to do with expertise or COVID.]
As for our public comment period, it is a vital part of our council meetings. I have seen multiple attempts at constraining it over the past 20 years and all have failed miserably and justifiably so. One might compare restricting public comment to a water balloon when squeezed at one end: the water and pressure will migrate to another end until it bursts. I have personally spoken before council more times than I can remember over the last two decades. Commenting is an opportunity for the public to reach out simultaneously to the council, mayor, staff, and the public without being filtered in any way. Alternatives such as email, letters, phone calls, or texts are just very, very poor substitutes.
From what I have read at the city website page YouTube removes July 12 City Council video due to content of public comments, it appears the council and I have similar thoughts as to the freedom of individuals to speak out at council meetings. This is encouraging. I am not enamored with the suspension of public commenting that has been declared for the 26 July council meeting, but I understand that the council needs to rethink the issues brought up by the mindless actions of YouTube. Perhaps council should consider a special meeting/hearing/town hall on these events in all their aspects. If not, as I said above, that water balloon will eventually burst.
[NB: A video of a county council meeting was similarly removed from YouTube. The county should take similar action and reclaim control over its official records.]