TELECOMMUNICATION BOARD MEETING FORUM
ON THE GOVERNANCE OF THE GOVERNMENT CHANNEL
February 24, 2009
(Prepared by Marvin Hilton, member of the Telecommunications Board)
The following is not a verbatim account of the entire discussion but contains paraphrased
statements that are often summarized. Also items that were repeated are not always
repeated in this account.
The following abbreviations are used for the participants:
AS: Aubrey Shepherd, Chairman of the Telecommunications Board
WE: Walt Eilers, Moderator
DM: Don Marr, City Chief of Staff
JB: Jim Bemis, Complainant
AG: Angie Graves, Member of the Telecommunications Board
AM: Andy Mayes, Member of the Telecommunications Board
MH: Marvin Hilton, Member of the Telecommunications Board
TB: Telecommunications Board
AS: This forum will deal with complaints and subjects of interests on the Governance of
the Government Channel. Mr. Walt Eilers will be the moderator. Mr. Eilers.
WE: How will the Government Channel serve the Jordan Administration? We have five
questions that we will use tonight. The first question is: Which City of Fayetteville
entities shall have administrative responsibility for recommending and implementing the
Fayetteville Government Channel Policy and Procedures?
AS: I have understood that the TB represents the City Council with implementing the
policy and in some ways with the procedures. The City Council has the final say on
DM: Lioneld Jordan and I were the two aldermen who co-chaired a city council
subcommittee in 2003 that re-evaluated the TB ordinance. The TB’s primary role is to
advise the City Council. The policy decisions are made by the City Council. The
Government Channel is to provide citizens with convenient access to Government. The
Government Channel is to provide unbiased content and a balanced view. The
Government Channel is to inform and involve citizens about Government. It is to
provide information about Government,
The TB’s duties include advising the City Council, overseeing the administration of the
PEG Center, advise on franchise agreements and review contacts such as the Public
An important discussion is “What’s a policy and What’s a procedure.” The Mayor
decides the administrative structure.
The TB would not exist without the City Council. The job of the Mayor is to see that
ordinances are followed. Back in 2003 we would have things come to the City Council
that didn’t go to the Telecom Board.
JB: Mr. Marr, I sure couldn’t have come up with that summary. Telecommunications
have changed since 2003. I hope we can get together another committee to re-discuss
how new technologies and laws will affect having PEG channels.
AG: the TB recommends policy and procedures and the City Council makes the final
WE: The TB recommends, the City Council finalizes and the City Administration
AM: Implementation of procedures is up to the City Staff.
MH: (Reading from ordinance 4504) “The TB shall have authority to establish and
disseminate such guidelines and regulations as are necessary to carry out the duties and
responsibilities set forth in this section.”
This section needs to be coordinated with the third whereas on the first page.
AS: Yes, there is a slight possibility of that. There are certain items that the City Council
doesn’t want to deal with.
MH: We need to be cautious about changing procedures into policy.
WE: Good point. Let’s go to question number two. Is there another role of the TB in
disseminating guidelines and regulations?
AG: In the case of a disagreement, what are the formal working relationships? Who has
the final authority?
JB: Ms. Graves raises a central point. Which of the following entities, City Council,
Telecommunications Board, or City Staff has “ownership” and legal responsibility for the
FGC policies and procedures?
Defining policy and procedures was begun in 2006 when the Government Channel policy
was rewritten and we separated somehow policy and procedures. We took 2004 policy
and changed them into procedures, in my view, arbitrarily, because we hadn’t defined
policy and procedure. Defining what is a policy and what is a procedure is a very
difficult task. We never agreed what happened in 2006 when policies became
Staff can implement procedure but they can’t make policy. The crucial difference is that
staff can implement procedure but they can’t make policy. We have the policies that
were in the 2004 version over in procedure where the staff can make interpretations and
the staff can implement it. We never determined how policies were transformed into
DM: outside of an ordinance or resolution, which is the only way that policy can happen,
what document are you referring to?
JB: The 2004 policy.
MH: The crux of the problem is that what was policy in 2004 was changed to procedure
in February of 2006.
On of the major changes was to change the policy, stating who had the authority to
request certain programs on the Government Channel, and call it procedure.
WE: Were those changes adopted by the City Council?
AG: Changes were made by subcommittee and then the TB and then the City Council.
Issues arose from decisions made in February 2006. Another round of changes was made
in 2008 and adopted by the City Council.
MH: Previously we considered a procedure to be something that could be changed
without changing the content of the programming.
One of the main policies that was changed to procedure was “who can request programs.”
AG: I agree that that needs to be looked at again because of continued controversy.
DM: Aldermen Alan and Jordan had a discussion about “who could request” and they
AS: There was a Government Channel policy version that went forward for a vote.
MH: That version specifically mentioned who can request what programs, but has never
JB: Several things have been left dangling.
One is the policy and procedures subcommittee, which did make a policy
recommendation and was voted down by a 3 to 3 tie vote. It contained two pages of
policy that is no longer in the policy, which was never evaluated by the City Attorney or
the City Council because it was in procedure.
AG: It was a decision to omit that. It was a decision upheld by the TB and the City
Council. It was decided that citizen requested forums did not need to be in a Government
JB: Yes, that’s the way it went down. The policy and procedures committee recognized
that the policy that was left out had been defining FOIA meetings as worthy Government
Channel programs. There are two pages of criteria for evaluating whether or a program
would be a forum and a limited public forum definition is no longer in the policy.
AS: The vote to remove citizen initiated forums was in response to what many of us
didn’t realize until we voted that night, that the proposal had come from a meeting of an
Administrative Assistant, one member of the TB, who was not a member of the TB
Subcommittee on Policy and Procedures, and the City Attorney. It is questionable
whether the origin of the proposal had gone through the policies the Subcommittee was
supposed to carry out. It should have been brought to the Subcommittee before bringing
it to the full board. It was probably legal but violated normal procedures. This has been
one of the main points of contention and what the Subcommittee will address.
The [Public Information and Policy Advisor] overstepped her authority in calling the
initiation of the forums as a procedure. The Subcommittee did vote that this
administrative action was out of place. We are moving forward by working on the
tentative policy document that the Subcommittee worked on in 2008.
WE: The process was not transparent.
AS: It was not transparent and not done through what we thought were standard
WE: So the answer to question number 2 is that the City Council appoints the TB
members, the TB advises the City Council and the City Staff implements the policy.
DM: The City Staff also has the opportunity to bring policy recommendations to the TB.
We all can make policy recommendations. Mayor Jordan very much believes it’s the
Government’s responsibility to be open, transparent, educative, and informative. He
believes if we have issues that are City wide related issues, he would come here and say
that we would like to have a balanced, unbiased, educational forum where citizens can
make decisions. We are operating on what was passed last and we are bound by that until
the policy changes.
AS: It might be very appropriate that the Government Channel cover FOIA meetings
when the government entity holding the meeting does not cover it. There is a clause in
the Government Channel Policy that states Fayetteville citizens can request coverage of
FOIA meetings when the government entity holding the meeting does no request
AG: The TB wrote a letter to the City Council saying an error had been made when the
issue forums on FHS and the Walton Arts center were cancelled. And that’s all we can
DM: We could change the Subcommittee to a Policy Subcommittee and a Procedure
Subcommittee and you could begin to identify which is which. A Policy and Procedures
Subcommittee is confusing to people. The crux of the argument is “what is a policy and
what is a procedure.” We could use policy to show why a procedure makes sense.
AG: The intent in 2006 was to separate policy from procedure.
WE: What’s the difference between a policy and procedure? Who owns policy and who
AM: Policy takes a more stern tone. Procedure is how that policy will be accomplished.
Where does the TB sit when a citizen believes that a policy was circumvented
procedurally? The TB can send a letter to the City Council indicating that we believe the
City Administration has violated a policy.
WE: Can the TB also make a recommendation?
JB: The real referee is the City Council. There have been lots of changes in the
personnel and policy over the years. Ms. Graves and I are the only two to have been
here the whole time.
Why not bring together a special committee? We have overestimated what a volunteer
committee could do. Maybe we need to rethink the ordinance again. The whole world is
changing around us. One thing that is different about the TB is that it has to deal with the
first amendment rights.
DM: The Mayor is very interested in a Subcommittee. The TB is so comprehensive and
includes infrastructure, what gets on a channel, how we schedule the channel and who
can request information. Maybe we need to set the bounds of the task force
[Subcommittee]. Maybe the next one needs to be about only the Government Channel,
the next one about the Educational Channel and the next after that the Public Access
Mayor Jordan’s interests are expanding broad band in the City, public Wi-Fi and what are
we doing for the people.
I think that things that were policy became procedural without going through the proper
process. The TB needs to duke it out with an Administrative Representative as to what is
a policy and what is a procedure. If you can’t get an agreement between the
Administration and the board on what is a policy and what is a procedure, then you take
to the City Council.
AG: It sometimes is not productive to continue dialog on issues that have already been
DM: If something fails on the planning commission you can’t bring it back until another
WE: We are living in a digital world and most of this discussion tonight has been analog.
We’ve got to revisit what are our core values, what’s a policy, what’s a procedure and
how do we work with the new administration in moving forward.
JB: We do have another brain storming session coming up where we will be talking
about some of the specifics ways we can deal with some of the telecommunications
issues. We could do a communication audit.
AM: There is information on the Public School’s communication strategy as a result of
the communication audit done by the schools.
JB: It is incredible what is not known at the local government level and I think the
community is interested in knowing how this board works.
AG: I am not certain that we have answered precisely some of the things we might have
wanted to. We on the board have been of a divided opinion and we on the board have
wanted a higher authority to make those calls and what those higher authorities have
wanted is for us to just decide.
I don’t really know at this minute how things are going to be different. We are on the
right path by highlighting some of these things and we’ve got the right people in place,
especially with the new administration, to go forward and explore them. I definitely
think there is more to be done before we are operating smoothly and then take on the
technological issues that we want to address.
MH: We have a brainstorming session planned which is to complement what we are
doing here now. Sometime after our brainstorming session we need to have our TB
Policy and Procedures Subcommittee meet and maybe it would streamline the process to
have a City Staff representative to be on that committee?
DM: We are certainly happy to participate.
MH: One of the main issues is to solve what is a policy and what is a procedure. The
Subcommittee kind of stalled on that task for several months. In my opinion they did not
get into the issue and settle the matter.
AM: This forum did identify those core issues such as what is a policy and what is a
procedure. We have a relatively new Government Channel from October 2008 and we
have a new administration which is willing to work with us to iron out the details and
reconvene that Subcommittee and again make recommendations to revise the
Government Channel Policy and delineate what procedures we wish the City Council we
wish the City Council to actually incorporate into a policy statement. The definition
between policy and procedure is pretty clear. We have some ambiguity that could be
dealt with by some minor revisions. We have a pretty clear mission from this forum to
deal with issues and to revise the Government Channel Policy. And then move on to
WE: Doing an audit is the best kind of self examination that you can do because it tells
you who you are warts and all and allows you to assess where you are and where you
From the Transition Team work, I was impressed by the number of people willing to give
their time and expertise because of where they live. There are a lot more shoulders out
there to help you carry this load and help you get a lot more representation of what this
community is thinking. And they do want to be asked to participate.
DM: On behalf of the Mayor and Staff I want to thank you for participating on this board
and tackling these issues and Mr. Bemis for keeping on the forefront of open government
and educating citizens.
The Mayor thinks this issue is important enough that you don’t just let it die. You keep
going until you get it right. In terms of our role we want a collaborative, partnering role.
We want to be clear on when we disagree because we take your advice seriously. The
thing that is difficult sometimes for this particular board is that you are dealing with lots
of gray. You are often times trying to figure out how to be the applicant to the board and
the City Administration is charged with how to function as an applicant to the board, how
to bring an item forward that allows you to discuss it.
We are committed to bringing you proposals that we would like to see adopted. We got a
lot of information from the Transition Team and we are going to use it. When we want to
change the rules, whether the policy needs to change or the procedures needs to change,
we will bring it here. We are going to use the process and be very open about what we
want to change, why we would want to change it and why we believe it should be
And we hope to get your recommendation and if we don’t we will walk to the City
Council together and let them referee the decision. We will present to the Council why
we believe you are wrong and you will present why you believe we’re wrong. It will be a
very open and transparent process.
I think you are going to find that we are a lot more in agreement with about how things
should work and what should be on the Government Channel than where we are going to
disagree. Thank you for your time.
AS: Thank you Mr. Marr and Mr. Eilers for refereeing tonight and Mr. Bemis for staying
on top of issues that have mattered to us. Thanks to all the rest of you who were here. I
hope that we make good use of our discussion here.
Angie Graves made a motion to adjourn. Motion seconded and passed. Meeting
ROLES OF THE ENTITIES:
The Telecommunications Board’s primary role is to advise the City Council by
recommending policies and actions.
The City Council makes final decisions on Telecommunications Board
recommendations, in the form of ordinances and resolutions.
The Mayor’s job is to see that the ordinances and resolutions are followed.
The City Staff decides what procedures will be used to accomplish the policies
contained in the ordinances and resolutions.
What is a policy and what is a procedure needs to be thoroughly discussed and the
Government Channel Policy revised according to the findings.
Much controversy has come from the Government Channel Policy revisions made
in February 2006 and October 2008. Several opinions were voiced that
transparency was not practiced and this was caused by two actions: A. policy
being transformed into procedure and B. The Telecommunications Board
Subcommittee on Policies and Procedures was bypassed.
The City’s Chief of Staff stated that the Administration is committed to using a
very open and transparent process and will be very open about what they want to
change, why they want to change it and why they believe that it should be
Interest was expressed in forming a Subcommittee or “Task Force” to review the
present Telecommunications Board Ordinance for possible changes because of
changes in technology, the laws and the comprehensiveness of the present
ordinance. It was also suggested that perhaps several Subcommittees could be
formed to deal separately with such things as Government, Educational and
Interest was also expressed in doing a “communications audit” for the City of
Fayetteville to determine where we are, warts and all, and where we aren’t.
A brainstorming session is scheduled for March 31 at 6:30 PM to discuss some of
the specific ways we can deal with some of the telecommunications issues and
help prepare for revisiting the Government Channel Policy. (This brainstorming
session is also planned to address complainant Jim Bemis’ itemized list of May