Live from Lebanon: It’s City Council!
Land Bank Update
March 28, 2017
Two young city residents have decided to live stream Lebanon City Council meetings
It’s not exactly ready for prime time, but thanks to the initiative of some young city residents, you can now watch Lebanon City Council meetings live on Facebook.
Monday night, Royal Marti and Chris Hostetter streamed council’s 6:30 p.m. meeting live from council chambers in the Lebanon Municipal Building on their Facebook page, See-ThruCity-LebanonPa.
It was the pairs’ second webcast, the first was at Thursday’s City Council workshop meeting. A recording of that and Monday night’s meeting can now be seen on the Facebook site.
Marti, a 21-year-old HACC student running as a Democrat for City Council, said he got the idea to stream the meetings from Tony Dastra, a 20-year-old who is running for mayor of Lancaster and has been streaming that city’s council meetings for several months,
“I reached out to him and saw how he went about beginning to do this, and he gave us permission to implement the same process here in Lebanon,” Marti said.
His motivation for streaming the council is not to create a problem, Marti said, but to make City Council more accessible and transparent. It also has the added advantage of engaging with others who can comment while watching.
“Part of my platform is to promote community and youth engagement and increase our numbers in attendance at our City Council meetings,” he said after council’s meeting on Thursday. “So the main point in this is to let people see that we are going to be broadcasting it live, to promote and let people know they should come out and get involved in their communities. And allow our youth to become more educated to what is going on here in Lebanon, because I don’t think they know about it.”
Marti and Hostetter did not just show up, clip a smartphone to a tripod and begin streaming. They called Mayor Sherry Capello’s office well in advance to inform her and ask them to tell council Chairman Wiley Parker of their plan.
Capello and Parker said Monday night that they had no problem with having the meetings broadcast live, noting that the media has been recording and broadcasting parts of meetings for years.
The only reference to the streaming was a notice on the meeting agenda that stated:
“Lebanon City Council recognizes that the City of Lebanon has an obligation to permit recording or live streaming of meetings. Council will permit videotaping, live streaming, and audio recording of meetings; however, Council is reserving the right to establish an ongoing policy for purposes of insuring accuracy, fairness and the integrity of the meetings.”
Marti said he plans to continue streaming the meetings, whether he wins or loses a council seat, but would like to see the city take the initiative to do it on its own. Because of bandwidth issues, he has not been able to link into the city’s wifi, which is costing him money from his cellphone carrier.
Neither Parker or Capello dismissed the idea of the city webcasting council meetings, which could be done on a Facebook page the city recently set up, City-of-Lebanon-PA-Government. But expanding the city’s bandwidth must first be resolved.
“We are going to have to get that situation with our internet provider squared away and then once we are there then I think we can make a more rational, reasoned decision about where we go from there,” Parker said.
Capello also said that there were other security issues to be resolved: The existing system filters internet access to prevent employees from linking to Facebook and other social media sites while at work. A new wifi link would have to allow that but also be secure to prevent hacking into the city’s system.
“We would have to run a dedicated static IP address from here down to the basement to the server. So these are all things that cost money and we need to think them out,” she said.
So what important council action did the Facebook Live camera capture? Quite a bit actually.
Council approved a zoning change that will allow day reporting centers as a conditional use in the Office-Industrial Zone.
The action was taken to allow Pennsylvania Counseling Services to open a day reporting center in its headquarters at 200 N. Seventh Street.
The day reporting center would be a place where non-violent offenders would report on a daily basis to receive counseling and other support, as an alternative to incarceration in Lebanon County Correctional Facility.
PCS’ preferred location for the day reporting center is in an office at 624 Cumberland Street in the downtown business district. However, the Lebanon Zoning Hearing Board did not permit the behavioral counseling agency to set up there.
That ruling has been appealed and a hearing will be held in Lebanon County Common Pleas Court next month.
Monday night council also unanimously approved the establishment of a Land Bank that will allow the city to purchase delinquent properties at judicial sales, repair them and then sell them.
“This is just to add another tool in our tool box. It’s an action item from our Grow Lebanon 2020 plan to address properties that have an endless cycle of vacancy, tax delinquency, abandonment and tax foreclosure,” Capello said.
To finance the Land Bank, council agreed to give it 50 percent of city property taxes for the first five years after the improved property is sold.
The city is asking Lebanon School District and the Lebanon County Board of Commissioners to give it the same tax forgiveness.
Capello said she expects the school board to vote on the matter when it convenes in April, but has not heard from the commissioners.
Source: Lebanon Daily News