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Podcast: Remote Public Meetings & COVID-19 with Lindsay Lara, San Rafael, CA

Posted on April 3, 2020


Lindsay Lara - GovLove

lindsay lara

Lindsay Lara
City Clerk
City of San Rafael, CA
LinkedIn | Twitter


From public comment to live broadcasting. Lindsay Lara, the City Clerk for the City of San Rafael, California, joined the podcast to discuss how the City Clerk and Digital Services teams set up public meetings in an age of social distancing. She talked about the changes to public meetings rules in California and how residents of San Rafael are still able to participate through YouTube comments.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Episode Transcript

Kirsten Wyatt

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is GovLove, a podcast about local government. GovLove is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. We engage the brightest minds in local government. I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director, and I’m excited to welcome Lindsay Lara, the City Clerk for San Rafael, California to the podcast. Welcome to GovLove.

Lindsay Lara

Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m excited.

Kirsten Wyatt

It has been a whirlwind three weeks as we watch local governments worldwide try to navigate new and remote ways of doing business during COVID-19 response. The ELGL Facebook and slack groups have almost daily inquiries about how organizations are standing up remote meetings, engagement efforts and more. Under the leadership of Lindsay and the San Rafael digital team, they were one of the first local governments in the nation to use remote only technologies to continue their public meetings and community member engagement. And today we’ll talk to her about how it all came together. But first let’s get started with that GovLove signature lightning round. All right, what is a food that everybody likes that you do not?

Lindsay Lara

Salmon.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh my gosh, how are you going to survive in the Pacific Northwest if you can’t eat salmon?

Lindsay Lara

[Laughter] That’s what everyone wonders. But I’ve been surviving just fine this far.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, well, we will have some food options for you. What is your best self-care tip in the time of quarantine?

Lindsay Lara

My best self-care tip in the time of quarantine is coloring and I’ve started to recently take up coloring in adult color books as well as taking Babs.

Kirsten Wyatt

Good, and anything in particular you like to color?

Lindsay Lara

Right now I just ordered 160 colored pencils and I am just coloring everything in my color book and its all very detailed. [Laughter] So I do that for about an hour a day.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, we just had a mindfulness training this morning, a webinar. And one thing they talked about was finding ways for your mind to just completely, you know, relax and disengage. And so I’m sure coloring would be on that list.

Lindsay Lara

That is exactly correct. I’ve heard it’s very meditative. And I agree.

Kirsten Wyatt

All right. So if animals could talk, which animal would be the most annoying to listen to testify at a land use hearing?

Lindsay Lara

[Laughter] I would say a peacock would be very annoying to listen to.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh yeah. They are probably totally NIMBY, don’t you think? [Laughter]

Lindsay Lara

It’s true. And whenever you make the noise, or you make the call, they all start calling each other so it would just be really brutal if there were a lot of attendees that were also peacocks.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh you know, I’ve never thought of a peacock before for this question, but it’s on my list now for sure. [Laughter] All right, so let’s talk about your work and not just peacocks and coloring. Tell us about your career path to the city clerk role in San Rafael.

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, so I started working in government when I was 17 years old. I started working for Marin County Superior Court. And I was there for about seven years and was looking for a change and saw a position come up in the City of San Rafael, an administrative assistant role. And I felt like I would be able to transfer in the City Clerk’s office and I felt like I’d be able to transfer my skill set well over there from the courthouse. And I really didn’t know much about what the office does and what my role would be. But once I started working for the clerk’s office, I kind of fell in love with the work everything related to the Brown Act and Robert’s Rules and FPPC, public records requests. All of that was right up my alley and things that I enjoyed to do. And that was about 2014. And I just continued working hard and, you know, received multiple promotions until my predecessor retired. And that role is a elected city clerk role. So I, I applied to fulfill the unexpired term of my predecessor. And that’s how I began in my city clerk position.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so have you had to run for the elected position yet?

Lindsay Lara

No. The election is actually going to be this November.

Kirsten Wyatt

Oh, wow. And so how has getting a campaign pulled together, then is that I mean, I’m assuming it’s a new experience.

Lindsay Lara

Yeah. So I was actually planning on working on that starting in March, and then COVID-19. So everything has kind of shifted and my priorities have shifted, and I have a feeling that there’s a group of candidates that are all feeling the same, trying to figure out how they’re going to navigate a campaign during this time of not contacting their community.

Kirsten Wyatt

I’m sure. Well, and we’ll get into engagement in general in a bit. But I want to talk about the last couple of weeks especially. Can you describe for us when you first started on, you know, this project of basically changing the entire way that you do your public meetings and, and your community outreach? Talk to us about what happened and kind of what that felt like.

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, we started to really speak about COVID-19, and what possible impacts it would have in our community around March 9 10th, that week, and I, we didn’t really talk about how it was going to impact our city council meetings, but I knew that people weren’t going to want to go outside. And so I just on my own started researching the ability to provide YouTube Live commenting as a feature that we could give as well as people attending in person because at that point, nothing had changed yet. And when I started doing a lot of that research, I realized it was something that we could definitely do and it would actually be an increase in a service that we’re providing right now or before COVID-19. And so, around March 10, is when we started investigating it. And we started to reach out to our videographers and see if it’s even something that would be possible to do. And then reaching out to the digital service and open government team and find out if they would feel comfortable moving our entire streaming models from Granicus, which we had been using since 2011, to YouTube, which was a free service. And in that process, we really found out quickly that we were moving from about a 90 second latency and delay in our streaming service through Granicus. And we would be moving to a three second delay in YouTube. And that was really when we started to realize this was going to be the right way to go if we were going to be offering a true alternative. So with people staying inside we could have I think we would talk about just allowing people to email their correspondence in advance, which we always have done. In order to try to try to provide a true alternative, we really wanted to make sure that people could in real time participate. So their opinions and ideas could change in form, the same way that we hope our city council’s is changing and forming as a result of staff presentations and public testimony. So we really wanted to make sure we had that alternative for the community.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so previously, you were streaming meetings using Granicus. But and people could participate using email or showing up live at a meeting. Were those kind of the three main ways of participating previously?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah.

Kirsten Wyatt

Okay, and so, this new model had you shifting over to YouTube away from Granicus. And then the ability to comment and participate was all happening through YouTube.

Lindsay Lara

We also decided to set up a conference call line where people who weren’t familiar with YouTube Live commenting on or didn’t have access to the internet would be able to participate over the telephone. And they can listen to the entire meeting and then provide public comments during the public comment period.

Kirsten Wyatt

And then on that, how are you cueing or allowing people to, you know, raise their hand or to chime in during that time?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, so we’re using Zoom meetings module. And the way that we’re doing that is we provided the meeting ID on our agenda the day of because we got lucky this was kind of before the zoom bombing was really going on. But we also were just trying to say if you needed if you didn’t have access to internet, contact us, the City Clerk’s office by 3pm, and we would give them a telephone number to call into, but we realized that we actually had a good amount of control within Zoom. So we had the ability to mute everyone to make it so they couldn’t unmute themselves and that we would have complete control over that. If they wanted to speak they were able to press star nine, and it would send me a little virtual hand wave and let me know that they wanted to speak. So every portion of the city council meeting that was public comment, we would kind of go over their options. So as soon as the mayor would call for public comment, I would read from my script and state that if there is anyone on the telephone conference call that was interested in providing public comment to please press star nine now. And then I would also say if you’re watching on YouTube, please provide your public comments on YouTube Live Chat by and let us know that you want your comments read to the city council by indicating so and writing public comment in caps before your comment. And that was how we determined what who wanted to speak on the conference call and who wanted their public comments read through YouTube.

Kirsten Wyatt

And then, and then if they indicated, and then you read aloud what they had typed into YouTube, or did you just take it as comment at that point?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, they wrote public comment live, we read it, we read it live into the record, and so I had my deputy city clerk, six feet away from me in the city council meeting, and she had a Google Doc open. And so she was just copying and pasting all of the public comments from YouTube Live Chat into a Google Doc that I also had open. And then I would be reading the public comments that were coming in through YouTube.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so thinking about the workflow, you know, and we’ll get into it in a minute, kind of the process of landing on these tools, but but you know, after deploying this and using it, talk to us about the workflow and how it feels, how it works for your members, for you and your team. I mean, is it, is it, is it clunky? Is it, are you getting the hang of it, you know, anything that that you’ve kind of taken away from using this so far?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, I think well, even just the addition of the Google Docs during the city council meeting, that was something we did on the fly. I think the first public comment that was provided over YouTube, I had to physically walk over, break my social distancing, and grab her laptop. Because I was going to zoom meeting from mine. And so on the fly, we just created a Google doc and started communicating to each other through that. And so that was something that did not go well, in my mind the first time around. Something else that was really clunky was when you’re providing a people to call in over conference call, and you don’t have their names set up. So when it was time for public comment, if someone did raise their hand, I didn’t know who what their name was. So I would have to say something like, if you know, I see that a hand is raised for the telephone number ending in digit six, six, you’re welcome to comment. So that was clunky. That was something that we wouldn’t do next time. I think what we would do next time and what we’re planning to do next time is mute everyone and then let them know that when they press star nine will unmute them which will send them a message saying you’ve been unmuted and that will be how they know it’s their turn to speak.

Kirsten Wyatt

Right. Right. And then is there any concern in that system that you could still get a zoom bar who could dial in wait? And then I mean, I guess it’s similar to being at a council meeting, and someone could always come up and testify and say something totally horrible. But I mean, anything, you know, related to that and Zoom that you’re worried about or is it just kind of the way public meetings through Zoom?

Lindsay Lara

It is terrifying. I mean Zoom plumbers are terrifying. They can …. [laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

Yes.

Lindsay Lara

You know, all we can really do is try to make zoom bombing our meeting unattractive. So for example, what we’re trying to do for the meeting that we have this Monday, is that we’re trying to have a full on video conference meeting for the council. So we’ll have one meeting ID for the city council and staff who will be presenting and then we’ll have a second meeting ID that’s conference call only. And we’re just going to hope that if we’re not giving them any opportunity to hijack the meeting with their screen, showing who they are or imagery that’s inappropriate, we’re hoping that they’re going to move on to a different meeting to bomb where they do have the ability to show and appropriate images, or be able to bomb it in a way that they want to be successful in that. So we’re trying to make us unattractive as video for video bombers. And also we’re trying not to send out our meeting ID in advance on social media. Normally, we would want to push that out. But right now we’re trying not to do that. And we’re just going to rely on creating an overlay in the video that we released to YouTube and have the overlay have our meeting phone number and the meeting ID displayed on that banner. And hopefully that’s how people will call in and not from fishing on our website for meeting ID’s.

Kirsten Wyatt

And have you received feedback yet from community members or from some of those those people who did want to testify or read comment about how it worked on their you know, citizen end of things?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, I was. So I think one of the things that I was the most surprised about was, I mean, I’ve had multiple levels of fear throughout the process. But one of the things that hit me the day of was like, Oh my gosh, what if we put so much work into testing this and no one even cares. They don’t even want to use YouTube Live, like, what if no one even likes that? And that everyone just wants to do the conference call. And then we just spent so much time on it for no reason. And I was so surprised that everyone, the majority of our comments came in through YouTube Live. I would say that we got comments from different groups of people than we typically would have. And people were really excited about it on Nextdoor and on social media platforms and on my Instagram when I was posting and pushing that out, people seemed really excited about it. And then at the end of our little chat feed, everyone was thinking the City of San Rafael just really excited that they had this, this opportunity to provide public comment in a different on a different platform. And people seemed happy with it.

Kirsten Wyatt

That’s great. And again, I think it shows that when you put that level of thoughtfulness and at the beginning, you know, I think in the end, it shows and it pays off. Do you, what types of considerations related to, you know, Open Meetings law did you have to factor in to the decision to use YouTube and to use the conference line and to take the approach that you did?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, I think it was so funny, because when we were originally planning on doing the YouTube Live comment feature, there had been no Governor’s orders that we are suspending provisions of the Brown Act, right. So in at that point, it was just this, this option that we were going to provide, we weren’t even going to be providing a conference call number unless someone didn’t have access to the internet. So when those suspensions to the to the provisions of the Brown Act, were coming out, we were having to pivot and act quickly and kind of change what we were doing or decide to keep it the same. And so one of the orders that came out was that we were not going to be allowing anyone to attend the meeting physically. And so we really had to make sure that was when we needed to push through this conference call number as because we have a an older community, we wanted to make sure that they would be the most comfortable providing their public comments, we had an item on the agenda that was definitely of high high interest to our senior community. And so providing those options were was really important. And I guess, as far as with the Brown Act is concerned, we could have easily provided the same service. We could have been, in the minimum minimum met the minimum requirements of the Brown Act, and the governor’s order, which is would have been to provide digital mail, which we could have done in advance of the meeting, and not not really we weren’t required to provide a true alternative to public participation as if they were able to come in person. But that was something that I think our San Rafael like I’m really proud of, and we’re always trying to see okay, well what’s the minimum requirement and then what can we do to actually meet people where they are. And that was where we were trying to push it. So we kind of went above and beyond what the minimum requirement was, and making sure and then just hoping that that would be visible to our community and that they would be happy with it. And it does seem like people did provide comments in advance of the meeting. And then I saw the same comments that were written in in advance, they were also on YouTube live because their opinion had shifted, or they wanted to add something that they didn’t comment on in their email correspondence in advance in response to a council member statement. So that’s a really good example of that alternative, that true alternative to public, physical and person participation.

Kirsten Wyatt

And do you have a moderator? Or is there anyone who is kind of in the thick of the YouTube Live comments, you know, providing any resources or, you know, redirection or is that, is that just like while the meetings happening? Is it just kind of a free running kind of message board or commentary on the meeting?

Lindsay Lara

No. So we weren’t planning on it. We were really not planning on having much back and forth chat. But because it’s the first, it was the first time, there were some people who were commenting without writing public comment in advance of their comments. And you could tell that they wanted it to be read into the record based off the way that they were, they were writing it. And so we would kind of go in and just say, you know, Hi, Jane, do you want us to read this into the record or so there was back and forth? We were definitely communicating with them. Or maybe they wouldn’t say what items and it didn’t, their comments didn’t make sense for the item that we were discussing at the moment. So I would say to them, or they would they submitted comments right when the meeting started. And I would say which item do you want this to fall under? Do you want this to go under CDBG? Do you want this to go under Whistle Stop? So I had to have, we had to. Me and my deputy city clerk both had to have those conversations, but we knew that we couldn’t answer any really high level questions on our own that they were welcome to ask that of staff during their public comment and then staff would respond following the close of public comment.

Kirsten Wyatt

And then did you develop a script or guidelines on how people shared, you know, or, you know, provided verification that they were truly you know, that they were a real live person that lived in the community, or you know why they had standing. Because I’ve, you know, you know, people have YouTube handles that are like, you know, I love Seattle Seahawks or whatever, but it’s not their real name. So how did you make sure that you know, I love Seattle Seahawks was actually Jane Smith, who lives you know, in your downtown.

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, that’s funny that you say that because Rebecca Woodbury who is the Director of Digital Services and Open Government, when we were first talking about doing YouTube Live comments, we talked about the username aspect as opposed to Facebook where there’s an actual name and so we were hoping that we weren’t going to get like Seymour Butts or like, [laughter] we just kind of came up with all the possible scenarios in which I would be reading something that could be used against me in my life later [laughter], or become a meme in any moment. So what we decided to do is not we wrote down in the video description and made sure we post we posted that everywhere else on social media that we would not be reading usernames into the record. And if they wanted their name to be read into the record they needed to do so, they needed to introduce themselves. And we can’t require anyone to use their name. And as long as we’re talking about subject matter within our jurisdiction, then it doesn’t matter to me if they live in Washington, or if they’re talking about the topic at hand, then they have every right to speak, just like if they were visiting from a different state, and they were in person, they would still have the same right to participate. So you know, the only thing we really wanted to make sure of is that they knew to introduce themselves because some of some people’s names, you know, I mean, they care about the reputation they’ve built as an activist in the community regarding sustainability, and so their comments they feel like would be considered heavier, more heavily if their name was included. Whether that’s true or not, it’s ultimately their prerogative. And so we wanted to make sure that they knew they needed to state their name to have it read.

Kirsten Wyatt

And talk to us about how your elected officials have responded to, I mean, very rapidly [inaudible] wave the meeting run to that, during the meeting that you have coming up next week. What types of training, feedback, concerns, questions did they have and how did you bring them along with to take all of this digital?

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, I think that’s where I feel like I’m just we’re really lucky in San Rafael, and everyone from the executive level, staff level and our electives, everyone has been really open to change in this whole environment and that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anyone who was skeptical or hesitant. But we provided comfort in the fact that like we had, we had an emergency city council meeting to declare, to ratify the proclamation of local emergency. And so that was fully completed through teleconference. And in advance, we met with the mayor and we provided a script. We sent that script out to the city council along with the agenda. So every council member had comfort in the fact that even though they weren’t visible to the mayor, the mayor was going to call on everyone by name, everyone was going to have an opportunity to have their voice heard. And then after everyone was called on again, they would have another opportunity to add anything that maybe was brought up for them. So I think having that script is really important just for them to know that they’re going to be, their voice is equally as powerful as it was in person as it is over the phone or by video. So I think that was a really big move and then that those emergency meetings going really well, and any special meetings we had in that format going really well. And then in the meeting on the 23rd, the city council meeting that we had, that went so well. And I don’t think that it went perfectly, there was a lot that I would change, kind of we talked about some of the clunky stuff. But it went, it went really well. And I think the city council is very aware that we’re trying to be really flexible in the way that we provide the service. And we’re doing a lot of things for the first time and all we can do is continue to try to meet our community where they are, and, and that we may not do it perfectly. And that’s okay. But we’re trying the best that we can. So they’re they’re super receptive to that and excited for video conferencing. We’ve been, I’ve been scheduling one on ones with all of them about you know, where they’re going to be located in their home, making sure their background is cleaned up and it looks professional, making sure their angle is going to be right so they look good. I mean, these are all things that we normally don’t have to think about and that we do have to think in this new time. So they’re really appreciative, the more the more I communicate with them about it, the more the more comfortable they’ve become.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and that’s a great point. And I think, you know, it works on both sides of the dias too, right, like, not making elected officials comfortable. But, you know, the beginning of this conversation, I think you also were paying so much attention to making community members feel comfortable with this process. And so, you know, the effort that you’ve put into that, I think is definitely something that we can all learn from. And one thing I’ve been really interested in is, is conversations about which bells can’t be unrung after COVID after you know, all of this has gone away. You know, things like when when states have relaxed liquor laws for alcohol delivery or, you know, in in California, you know, Brown Act restrictions being lifted. Do you think that kind of loosening the need to host meetings and take comment and do things electronically is something that won’t come undone? And what are your feelings on that?

Lindsay Lara

Hmm. Interesting. I so that I definitely think as far as the state, I’m not, I don’t totally know. What I know is there’s going to be certain things that I think will stick in our community. And if our community feels strongly enough about maintaining their ability to public comment through YouTube, I feel like that’s just going to be something that if we’re capable of doing it during COVID-19, like why why wouldn’t we be able to provide that service always. I do think that that’s a possibility. And I think that if that continues to go smoothly, I think that, that makes sense. And the reason I I would hesitate to speak statewide is that we have a population of 58,000. There are cities in California, with significantly higher population and their community engagement is is you know, it wouldn’t, it would be very difficult to manage that over YouTube Live commenting or by conference call. So without having the meeting be last forever. So I don’t know, I don’t want to speak out of my experience on that. But I do know that there’s going to be things that I think we can’t unring, there’s bells we can’t unring as far as the City of San Rafael. And I think the way that we’re providing services to our community, and to some degree, I think that there’s something I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think we’re going above and beyond and this has helped us. And if there’s a silver lining to all of this, it’s helped us be really innovative really quickly, and take risks that we may not have taken risks on before. And I’m one of those people who is not super excited to take risks. I like things to be perfect before I release them. And in this scenario, I mean, Rebecca was laughing at me from Digital Service and Open Government because I’m usually the one who’s like, whoa, whoa. And here I am just like totally like, let’s do this. And she was just like, Whoa, okay. Let’s go. [Laughter] And I think that that’s really the beauty of if there’s anything that is really nice about this is being able to just know that we’re doing the best that we can. It’s not going to be perfect. And now is the time to try. And that might end up working really well and sticking.

Kirsten Wyatt

Right. And so what else did you learn away that surprised you or was kind of different than how you normally operate?

Lindsay Lara

Well, I think the main thing that surprised me was in the whole process of setting it up, I thought that you, I’ve never I had never used YouTube. Definitely never live streamed anything in my life. I had never used Zoom. So pretty much everything we used, I had never touched before. I had never used OBS, which was the streaming software that we use to get it to stream to YouTube Live and neither had our digital department. So digital was used to using Teams not Zoom. They were used to using Granicus, not YouTube live streaming. All of this stuff was new to all of us and I didn’t realize that you had to request to become a YouTube live streaming person on YouTube. Like I had no idea that was something you had to do. And that took over 24 hours to be able to start and testing is like the most important thing. So the other thing I didn’t realize is that you can get banned from YouTube like easily. I had done a test run like a zoom test, through video conferencing to where I live stream to YouTube, and I was just on the couch with my nephew. And I just was saying test 123123 like over and over again. And for whatever reason, YouTube flagged the video as inappropriate content and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t use YouTube again for like four days. And every day means the world when you’re doing testing. I’m just like, terrified.

Kirsten Wyatt

What were you wearing? [Laughter]

Lindsay Lara

I was wearing like a thermal, my pajamas [laughter] which is very similar to what I’m wearing right now. [Laughter] Very attractive you know. [laughter] Yeah. That was definitely surprising. And then the last thing that was really just a day of surprising was that on YouTube Live Chat, there’s a 200 character limit. And I found that out the day of and so all of a sudden, we had to shift and like, start pushing out to our community on Nextdoor when we were, when we were broadcasting, the meeting was live. We had to say if you want to put if you want to post to YouTube, you need to break your two minute comments into 200 character limit groups. So we would have like six or seven comments come in with 200 character limits each. So that was, that was definitely something I was the day of, I think I was saying to Rebecca, like, we need to go to Facebook live like I’m terrified. We need to, we need to pivot and we were just like, no, let’s just keep with what we have. Keep it what we know. And to my surprise our community I mean, they had no problem. They had no problem with it. They they broke it all up. They were able to comment they were still thankful. They didn’t say this is annoying. I hate this. What’s wrong? They just grouped them into groups of 200 character limit, with no problems. I mean, really, it was a surprise, though I didn’t I should have tried to comment more than just saying testing testing over and over again.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and but all the more reason that you made time today to talk on GovLove. So our listeners, you know, know that going into their own adventures with YouTube, plans to [inaudible] live to have multiple kind of ways to stream. [inaudible] Are you sticking with, sticking with one source for this?

Lindsay Lara

So we’ve talked about going to Facebook Live too and I think, right now there’s a couple things that are attractive about YouTube versus Facebook is that you do have to create a Google account in order to comment in YouTube Live, but you have to do that. And so that we definitely pushed that out at the beginning when we started to say we were streaming YouTube is that you need to make a Google account, go now subscribe to our channel, make an account. And then you’ll be able to chat live. And some people have something more against Facebook Live, or Facebook in general. They think, they look at it more of us as a social media platform than they do YouTube. So they were originally we wanted to go with a more like kind of in the middle social media option. And now, you know, I’ve started to lean towards wanting to go with Facebook Live. There’s definitely, it’s definitely something I want to keep thinking about. But I’m not sure if we need to do it now. And I’m not 100% sure, I think we want to keep trying it out in our pilot with YouTube and then I think we’ll talk with digital and see how we feel about moving it to Facebook too. My concern is trying to manage the comments, with my deputy city clerk, managing us managing Zoom and managing YouTube Live comments and then also adding a new component of answering questions and having that chat feature, so that we can actually communicate with them, that makes it a lot more difficult. But I’m open to it.

Kirsten Wyatt

And so what did you learn or find that was frustrating or unnecessarily challenging on this project to go digital?

Lindsay Lara

I would say getting banned, for getting banned that I talked about earlier was unnecessarily challenging. I really love YouTube, but there’s just no one to call. No one from YouTube cares about you individually. [Laughter] So that’s the hard part if you can’t get a hold of anybody. And then the other thing too, is when we were testing with the conference calling and the microphones in council chambers, we were having some crazy feedback loops. And those feedback loops were, the solutions were so simple to them. It was it was just like you needed to mute whatever device you had that was connected to Zoom. You needed to mute all of those devices. But for some reason, when you’re trying to manage like the video and the Zoom and the YouTube, and all of the different things that sound is that being played through, you just kind of get lost in that. And so the feedback loop is a really simple thing to fix. But it seems super complicated when you’re in the middle of the feedback loop because you can’t think because it’s just feedback looping over and over and over again. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

And I mean, again, when you’re under pressure to that has to seem all the more aggravating.

Lindsay Lara

Yes. And thank goodness that we fixed all of that. And we didn’t have to deal with it during the meeting. But that came up a lot during our testing and we were able to nip it in the bud and make sure that it wasn’t going to happen in real time.

Kirsten Wyatt

And if you could give advice to someone listening who wants to stand up their own remote meetings, and set citizen participation options, what what advice would you give them?

Lindsay Lara

The main thing I would say is do it now during COVID-19. Do your best and do a whole bunch of testing, and then just be ready to pivot, be ready for a governor’s order to come out and make you change your plan. And then provide scripts to your council members or your legislative body and make sure that they’re comfortable. And make sure that they have the confidence that they need to be successful in controlling a remote or virtual meeting.

Kirsten Wyatt

And on your LinkedIn profile, you describe yourself as passionate about Community Engagement, Fair Political Practices and Transparency. So talk to us about your values and goals, as well as the guiding principles for the City of San Rafael as it relates to this project.

Lindsay Lara

Yeah, I it’s funny, I actually haven’t looked at my LinkedIn profile in a while, but this project is exactly, it’s aligned perfectly with my values. And, you know, transparency and community engagement is exactly what we’re doing and with fair political, political practices, that transparency and community engagement provides accountability to make those things happen. So really everything that we did with this project and providing the opportunity for our community to participate and providing that true alternative, that’s a perfect example of us trying to meet our community where they are. Us trying to be a 21st century government by utilizing tools that people are comfortable with and used to in today’s day and age. And then everything really aligned perfectly with the City of San Rafael’s guiding principles, and Together San Rafael. I mean, we were, we were open, we were practicing openness, we were being fiscally responsible, responsible, this really cost this cost the city $19. And that was our zoom account for our meetings module. That’s all this counts. And the reality of it is, is that if we end up leaving Granicus as a result, because we like the streaming that’s happening through YouTube, and it’s a three second latency as opposed to a 90 second latency, that’s thirty thousand dollars that the city is saving instantly. And then we were obviously working with cross departmental teams, we were pivoting, we were pivoting, we were thinking about the Human Centered Design and what their user or end user would be experiencing as the community. And we were thinking about the user from the council’s perspectives, from staff who would be presenting from their perspective, and we were thinking about it from the community’s perspective. So really, I do think that this, this project is a really good example of how we have taken the guiding principles of Together San Rafael and our core values and implemented them into every step of this project, just through iterations, pivoting, being flexible, finding things to say yes to, not giving up, failing fast and going again, and starting over. All of those things we did and we did really well and I’m so incredibly proud of the team that we have in the City Clerk’s office, in Digital Service and Open Government. And then right now we had disaster service workers being reassigned and being placed in digital. So, I mean, just proud of everyone who touched this project and was able to make it be successful.

Kirsten Wyatt

That like, gave me goosebumps. [Laughter] That was so great. [Laughter] I mean you think about everything that we want to try to provide to, you know, ELGL members and GovLove listeners, and you just summed it up perfectly. So I do have one last question for you. If you could be the DJ for GovLove, what song would you pick as our exit music for this episode?

Lindsay Lara

Hmm. Bennie and the Jets. That’s my jam by Elton John. [Laughter]

Kirsten Wyatt

[Laughter] That’s perfect. Thank you. So this does end our episode. And I want to thank you for coming on and talking with me.

Lindsay Lara

Thank you so much. I honestly, this has been such a fun experience. This has been great. Thanks for having me.

Kirsten Wyatt

Well, and for our listeners, don’t forget that Lindsay also curated a series for us a couple of years ago about the important role of City Clerk’s and city recorders. She believes deeply in her work and we believe in the work that she and her colleagues are doing across the country. So check out that blog series on elgl.org. GovLove is produced by a rotating cast of awesome ELGL volunteers. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. And our vision is to amplify the good in local government and we do this by engaging the brightest minds in local government. A reminder that our full suite of COVID information and resources is online at elgl.org/Covid-19. And for our listeners, you can reach us at elgl.org/Govlove or on Twitter @govlovepodcast. Thank you for listening. This has been GovLove, a podcast about local government.

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