Note: On March 11, the SBNC announced that it would broadcast the candidate public hearings live.
Capital News Article
School board nominating meetings won’t be broadcast live, Capital, March 7, 2016.
Snider Comment #1 and Reply Comments
The first notice for the launch of the current nomination cycle was posted in the Capital on March 4 inconspicuously at the bottom of an article. The first substantive notice was on March 6. The deadline for applicants is March 11. Using March 4 as the benchmark, that’s one-week notice. If my memory serves me correctly, that’s the shortest meaningfully public notice period for any SBNC nomination cycle in its history (it began in 2008). The SBNC website says it posted a notice as of Feb. 16. But like holding a meeting without a video record and providing meaningless written minutes, that type of public notice is not meaningfully public.
This also is the earliest nomination cycle in the SBNC’s history—and more than two months earlier than in recent years. The appointee cannot take office until after July 1, 2016.
The specific dates for candidates to file applications for most periodic public offices are posted YEARS ahead of time. The SBNC’s practice of arbitrarily changing both notice and filing dates is truly remarkable.
One effect of short and unexpected notice is to give insiders, who receive advance notice, a strategic advantage. A second effect is to limit the applicant pool. Yes, there is an insider applicant here.
One correction to the Capital article: there is a difference between posting a video on YouTube and posting it on the SBNC website where it can actually be found by non-insiders. Posting the YouTube URLs on the SBNC website came days later than the Capital reports.
Bob Mosier Reply Comment
@Snider Mr. Snider’s assertion above is incorrect. As a courtesy, Anne Arundel County Public Schools distributes releases for the SBNC. The first release announcing the application period was distributed publicly on the afternoon of February 16. It announced when applications would be available as well as the deadline of March 11 for submitting applications. That release was distributed to everyone on the AACPS news release distribution list. It was also posted on the AACPS website, AACPS Facebook page, and more than 120 AACPS Twitter pages. Combined, those social media pages have well over 50,000 followers.
Bob Mosier, Chief Communications Officer, AACPS
Snider Reply Comment
@bobmosier1 The first press release I received from your office was dated March 4, 2016–also the date of the Capital article first reporting the new applicant cycle and deadline. See http://www.aacpsnews.org/pressr/?p=2889. That, of course, doesn’t mean an earlier press release wasn’t sent out. But if so, I wonder why the Capital didn’t report it.
One odd detail that corresponds to other press releases that have supposedly been sent out by your office but that I haven’t received (I’m on your PR list) is that the Feb. 16, 2017 “press release” doesn’t, as is customary even when you send out an SBNC press release as a courtesy, have your letterhead. Please explain the discrepancy. See http://www.aacps.org/admin/articlefiles/1395-21616.pdf. In the past, I have noted that I haven’t gotten all your PR notices. Please confirm in writing that you only have one PR list and that all who ask to be on it are treated equally. If you do have different PR distribution lists, please explain their differences and, most important, how to get on them.
In the past, I’ve also noticed that your office has changed and retroactively posted (e.g., on BoardDocs) politically sensitive online documents without any public notice of the changes or retroactive postings. (For readers: changing most public documents without public notice is legal in Maryland.) Unlike print documents, your online documents have no verifiable time stamps. Please explain your policy concerning changing the public record without public notice, including mechanisms to verify that such changes haven’t been made.
Bob Mosier Reply Comment
@Snider Mr. Snider, I just looked at the list we use. As you are well aware, you have alternated between several different emails addresses in correspondence with our school system over the years. My guess would be that one of the previous ones you have used is part of our list and your current one is not. If you wish to email me the current one, I would be happy to add it to the list and delete the outdated one.
Snider Reply Comment
@bobmosier1 Since almost every day I continue to receive several press releases from your office, that explanation of the discrepancy doesn’t make sense. I do hope you will answer the queries addressed to you in my response above.
Snider Comment #2
I want to applaud both the Capital for running this article and the SBNC Chair for committing publicly to televising SBNC public meetings. A letter-to-the-editor that I sent to the Capital on March 4 triggered both the article and the SBNC Chair’s public commitment. Here is what I sent:
“Shame on the SBNC for not televising its two upcoming public hearings on March 14 and March 28 for candidates to the Anne Arundel School Board Nominating Commission. This is the first time since 2008 that the two statutorily mandated public hearings would not be televised. This huge change in procedure was made without any public notice or comment.
A much better location for the public hearings would have been the Community College, which has hosted SBNC hearings in the past and also televised them on its broadcast channel. But if the point was to pick a place that wouldn’t be able to provide live coverage (and given the current unprecedented controversy surrounding the SBNC, this cannot be ruled out as the motivation), then the location in Severna Park was well chosen.
Of course, it’s possible that the SBNC could bring the requisite video equipment to the two public hearing locations in Severna Park. But the press release announcing the two hearings makes no notice of such coverage, and the tradition in Anne Arundel County has been not to televise public hearings when they aren’t conducted at Riva Road, the Arundel Center, or the Community College—all of which are already set up for televised public hearings and can provide such coverage with the highest quality and lowest cost. Such cost considerations would be especially relevant to the SBNC, as it has no budget and has repeatedly professed that due to its lack of resources it cannot provide good meeting records.”
Our say: Commission meetings should be televised, Capital, March 9, 2016.
“[O]ne commission meeting in January didn’t make it to YouTube for 13 days.”
There is a difference between posting a meeting on an obscure YouTube website and on the SBNC’s website. The County’s TV staff post videos on YouTube and then send the URL to the SBNC for posting on its website. That posting may come days or weeks after the YouTube posting. But only the posting on the SBNC website makes the video meaningfully public.
Additionally, the SBNC doesn’t post on its website the date on which video is actually posted. It only notes the date of the public meeting the video covers; hence the Capital’s reliance on the YouTube publication date.
Moreover, even if the SBNC did publish a date it wouldn’t necessarily be credible because the practice established by the AACPS PR office (which has historically maintained the SBNC website) is that dates shown for posting–or, usually, the lack thereof–are dictated by PR concerns.
A nice feature of the YouTube dates is that they are credible. Ironically, the date stamps for public documents posted by a private company (YouTube is a Google subsidiary) have become far more credible than the date stamps provided by our local government websites.
I wish the Capital would report on how such shameless public records practices came to be (see eLighthouse.info for the politics of such policies) rather than accept them as a given and report around them.
David Zwald Reply Comment
I think The Capital is making a mountain out of a molehill. Probably need to find something to create controversy to sell newspapers.
I just think that bringing the meetings closer to the people IS A GOOD IDEA. What is wrong with trying it? The very purpose of transparency is fulfilled with this new location. Busy average citizens of District 33 are MUCH more likely to come to this meeting.
The Commission can keep account of how many people attend vs. take advantage of the live presentation. This data can be chronicled and reviewed because if it is offered digitally it can be counted. And then government will know what is the most transparent approach. Then one can determine which place gets the most citizens involved.
If the new location is not successful in terms of real documented involvement, then the move the meetings back.
Snider Reply Comment
The choice between district hearings and televised meetings should be a difference without a distinction. Many local governments, including those much poorer and smaller than ours, allow live televised meetings to take place in high schools, libraries, and other local community meeting places.
Despite the fact that all our local government buildings are now connected to the I-NET (very high speed broadband facilities) and that we pay $1/month on our cable TV bill for community TV, our politicians have gone out of their way to prevent our community meeting places from being set up to televise local meetings.
One advantage of this is that when the school board and others want to hold public hearings they don’t have to be televised, the lack of which our politicians generally consider a feature rather than a bug. Another advantage is that they can use the $1/month fee as an off-budget IT slush fund.