Category Archives: Ideas

How Uploading Audio to YouTube Can Make a Difference

I have recently started converting audio files to YouTube videos to make them easier to reference, share, and discover on the Internet.

A few months back I learned that the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation would start to post the audio of their meetings as an experiment.  I quickly wrote an e-mail to the Board members, applauding their decision and encouraging them to keep up the work.  Subsequently, I wrote a Letter-to-the-Editor to the The Courier and Journal to this effect as well.

Following up on NAFCS, I discovered that the they would only host their audio files for 60-days after their initial posting:

Please click the applicable play button below to listen to the entire school board meeting.  These audio recordings are available on this site for 60 days from original date of posting.

After the internal struggle with their board, I wanted to keep them online in perpetuity.

It was surprisingly easy to convert an image and an audio file to a YouTube video once I found the right ffmpeg arguments.  I am going to slowly start putting more and more government meetings online in this way.

An interesting byproduct of this endeavor was that once I posted the videos online and tweeted @NAFCSuccess a link to a video, the 60-day limit text was removed from their web site.

Never under estimate the power of yourself. Every politically-aware person is fond of quoting Margaret Mead in these instances.  I will do no different:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Hell.  You may be a group of one in some cases.


Letter-to-the-Editor

I want to thank and celebrate the recent move toward greater transparency by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation Board of Trustees.

By proactively posting the audio of their meetings online the public has an opportunity to listen, with historical accuracy, to what exactly transpired at the meeting instead of relaying on the distilled minutes. The beauty of government is in the details, not in the summary.

Board Member George Gauntt asked if there would be any public interest in the audio. The public may be interested in a topic presented at the previous meeting or wish to research how a specific issue evolved over time. The return on investment is magnitudes beyond the initial required effort; trim the ends of the file, amplify, compress, and upload. Nothing to redact, since it took place in a public meeting.

I would also like to encourage every individual (including students, members of the public without students, etc) to attend the next school board meeting and push for the adoption of the second transparency resolution that was tabled. Once passed, even greater transparency will be achieved by posting supplemental materials prior to scheduled NAFCCSC Board meetings. An informed community is an empowered one.

Remember, do not limit your political life to the ballot box. There are plenty of opportunities to engage your community now, regardless of your age, without waiting for the next election.

ZACHARY BAIEL

Creating Interest in Government will Bring More People out for Elections

Lafayette City Councilor Ron Campbell:

It seems to me we’ve got to create more interest in elections if we are going to get people to participate in government.

I disagree with Councilor Campbell’s understanding of the disinterest in elections; it is not elections that bring participation in government, it is engagement in government that brings participation in elections.

As I am often fond of saying, individuals should not limit their political life to the ballot box. What has Campbell done to involve the Public in the process?  What kind of engagement and access has Campbell worked towards to open up the City’s activities, including Committee work?

As of today, only the Lafayette City Council meetings are posted on the City’s YouTube channel. Anyone remotely familiar with municipal government knows that impactful decisions are made outside Council meetings, such as at the Board of Public Works, or the Economic Development Commission to name a couple.

On the City’s web site, only the City Council and Board of Public Works have their audio posted. Again, anyone who has worked on boards or with local government knows minutes are usually gross generalizations of the conversation and are only legally required to document the motions and votes on particular issues.  Sometimes, comments are distilled to neutralizing nothings:

Public Comments Distilled into a Neutralized NothingPublic Comments Distilled

To get an accurate picture of a group, one must observe the actual meeting.

(Side note:  Lafayette, after all, is the hometown of C-SPAN creator, Brian Lamb. This type of documentation and digestion is in our blood!)

In order to excite the Public’s interest in local government, they need to have access to how their local government works.  To have guidance on navigating the system, how to find information, ask questions, analyze data, etc. They need to feel like this is expected of them.  Once we get people involved in the processes of government, they will be more delighted to evaluate those running for office, and ultimately return each election cycle to vote.

Moving the election, as has been recently talked about by multiple groups, including the Journal and Courier’s Dave Bangert, is not the solution.

Once moved, municipal issues will be shadowed by the larger, National questions, candidates, and issues. If people can’t take the time to learn about their local leaders now, how can we expect them to do so when the workload is increased?

Another context missing from this conversation is the weakness of our political landscape, namely the two parties in Tippecanoe County.

The Democrats were the only ones who had an primary contest in the entire County.  Five individuals were running for the three At-Large seats in the Lafayette City Council. A fleet of challengers is always good for the Public and the abysmal effort by both parties on each side of the river sends two possible messages to the local community:

  1. The candidate selection process is pre-filtered internally by the Democrat and Republican leadership, possibly discouraging those who might want to run not to do so.
  2. The candidate pool is deplete and barren.

Either one does not bode well for the Public and the democratic process in Tippecanoe County.

The two-party system is one that should not be sustained either.  Efforts to do so are myopic, wasteful, and damaging to the future of our political system.  Keeping the two parties creates an environment that stabilizes into a stagnation, causing the Public to squander interest, lose trust, and tune out what is happening around them.  If that is the desired goal, we achieving this to splendid results across the United States of America.

That, Councilor Campbell, is why people are not interested in government.  When the only importance emphasized to the Public is their voting habits, one quickly becomes a bystander or worse, a stranger, to the very opportunities that would make them feel integral to our democracy.

West Lafayette Ranks Worst of Big Ten College Towns and What We Can Do About It

It is interesting.  Just earlier this week West Lafayette was named one of the easiest cities to get around for seniors:

Katie Moreau, communications director for AARP Indiana, said West Lafayette was chosen due to its extensive public transportation, close access to medical care and proximity to Purdue University. She said the elderly population has a combination of unique needs that can be difficult to meet if mobility is limited and the residents cannot drive.

She said in West Lafayette, public transportation is abundant and social opportunities for the elderly abound thanks to Purdue, which offers lectures, classes and more.

Now, according to a group of Big Ten ESPN Experts (their term, not mine), surmised that West Lafayette ranks the worst (14th) out of the entire Big Ten:

West Lafayette, Ind. It’s one of the smallest towns on this list at under 50,000 residents. There isn’t a whole lot to do, both indoors or out other than the Lafayette Brewery and the Wabash River. If you like brick and Greek parties, then this is your place. Otherwise, continue down I-65 to Indy or Chi-town. Purdue’s home city got seven last-place votes.
Once the word was out, the local news outlets covered the story:

I find it curious that the students included in the WLFI piece were all shocked by the results.  Did only find those who were against the Big Ten Experts’ assessment?

There were some good quotes from Mayor John Dennis in the WLFI piece:

“When you compare the city of West Lafayette to all the other Big Ten school, we’re the smallest. We’ve got 50,000 static citizens, so that is indicative of a relatively small town environment,” said Dennis.

The website says there isn’t a whole lot to do either inside or outside, unless you like brick and Greek parties. It suggests a visit to Indianapolis or Chicago.

But Dennis thinks some opinions will change with the State Street Project.

“We’re going to bring in more development, to expand accessibility to some of our businesses, and generally improve the overall environment,” said Dennis.

[…]

Dennis said when it comes to quality of life here in West Lafayette — that deserves a top ranking.

However, does the City of West Lafayette earn a top ranking when it comes to quality of life?

I am not sure where Mayor Dennis came up with the 50,000 static citizens in West Lafayette.  The population stated in the recent annexation and redistricting places us at 41,950.  This population total also includes a significant amount of students living in Districts 1, 2, 3, 6.  I don’t think we can call students static residents since in most cases, they meet the criteria for temporary residents:

Sec. 7. Subject to section 6 of this chapter, a person does not gain residency in a precinct into which the person moves for:
(1) temporary employment;
(2) educational purposes;
(3) preparing to purchase or occupy a residence; or
(4) other purposes;
without the intent of making a permanent home in the precinct.

As one commenter, Stephen Jack, pointed out in the Indy Star comments:

John Kelsey Oh my. Ranked lower than Rutgers? It's time to do the right thing: give Purdue to Texas. That's where all of the ugly belongs. Stephen Jack · My own boss at Self-Employed Who fuc&^ng cares? Just go and get a good education and find a job and leave!If students (and residents) do not have reasons to stay after their purpose for being here (education), they leave Tippecanoe County if not Indiana entirely.  One could assume that the same reasons the ESPN Big Ten Experts found West Lafayette uninspiring are the same reasons why we have a highly transient population.

Student (and human capital) flight has been occurring for decades.  Those same shocked students included in the WLFI piece will, most likely, finish their education, graduate, and then move to another city, probably outside of Indiana.  One recent change in the history of West Lafayette is the annexation of Purdue and neighboring lands.  Now, for their short stay in West Lafayette, students have a seat at the Legislative table with the addition of District 3 in West Lafayette.  Through this seat on the City Council, students have increased power and representation on a variety of committees and boards throughout Tippecanoe County.

District 3 and Purdue's (Student) Seat on City Council

Mayor Dennis spoke about the upcoming State Street Master Plan/ReState St/State Street Redevelopment Project, where significant transportation changes, along with some new public features, will be added to State St.  If executed well, this could change the tone and tenor of the area for decades to come.

One uninspiring change will be the addition of these pedestrian prison bars in The Village area:

State Street Master Plan, ReState St., State Street Redevelopment Project Pedestrian Prison BarsThese are being suggested initially to avoid having the orange and white barricades out during game days, but a permanent fence around The Village is not the solution.

Besides this horribly insulting addition, what confidence can we have in the future commercial development along this extremely important corridor?  If we look at the history of development in West Lafayette, it will be a majority of chain and franchise establishments that cater to the lowest common denominator of desire in our community: the transient student population.  Once again leaving nothing for the 41,000+ static residents.

If we continue down this path of development, these static residents will turn mobile and leave along with the students.

The Levee was also touted as a game changer for the community in the early 2000s and its impact is not highly regarded nor celebrated in the Community.  It meets some needs, however, the State St. Redevelopment Project is updating the area to address some initial development blunders:

Repair the Transportation Infrastructure along the LeveeThere were also some interesting comments from the WLFI article regarding the Levee:

MilkAndChocolate:

“But Dennis thinks some opinions will change with the State Street Project.”

Ha! That’s what everyone said about the Levee projects, but that area has flat-lined, and faded, and still offers little more than a theater and some food. The crime statistics don’t help either. I’m sure they’re enough to make people double-think their visits. I’d be curious to see what impact Ferguson, Missouri has had on Saint Louis’ visitor count. I doubt people are flocking to the Saint Louis area.

 jonny bakho reply to MilkAndChocolate

The Levee project was ruined when INDOT turned River Road into an 8 Lane pedestrian kill zone. It is unsafe to walk from campus to the Levee. The traffic around campus is unpleasant. Give pedestrians priority around campus and campus town, move the cars out to parking lots and roads on the edge and things will improve. There is no place to eat near the sports complex but McDonalds. The new Baseball/Soccer/Tennis area is only accessible by car. No amenities for miles. This encourages students to drive and makes the campus unpleasant and less safe.

As always, communication is key.  So is an active and engaged constituency.  Remember, 2015 is a Municipal Election Year.   The City Council seats are all contested by two parties, Independent Donnie Spencer is running in the campus district.  Mayor Dennis is unopposed.

Take a few moments out of your schedule, make some phone calls to the Mayor’s office (765-775-5103), call your City Councilor Representative, write a Letter to the Editor at the J&C.  Share your thoughts.  Attend the City Council meeting on May 4th.  This is the start of a LONG process.

Politics is a war of attrition.

The only way West Lafayette will transcend the contemptuous view people have of it and become an acclaimed and notable City is if you are a part of the process.