Archive for category Calgary

YYCCC 2010-11-08 Calgary City Council

Monday November 8th’s City Council meeting is the first regular City Council meeting of Mayor Nenshi’s term (earlier meetings in his term being of a more organizational nature), and as such is an excellent candidate to illustrate how improved municipal government transparency (one of Mayor Nenshi’s policy platforms) can be achieved.

Brief Video Summary (Who reads any more?)

Calgary City Council on November 8, 2010 – The Video

I recommend simultaneously opening City Council minutes as documented on Calgary.ca, to fully understand and navigate the Council meeting.

hh:mm:ss item summary
00:03:16 02 QUESTION PERIOD: Street Lights (Alderman Jones), Traffic Study (Alderman Chabot)
00:15:05 05 LAND USE ITEMS: CPC2010-114, CPC2010-115, CPC2010-116, CPC2010-117, CPC2010-118, CPC2010-119, CPC2010-120
00:51:00 06 DISPOSTIONS OF PUBLIC RESERVE LANDS: CPC2010-119, CPC2010-120
01:01:53 08.1 CPC2010-121, TEXTUAL AMENDMENTS TO THE LAND USE BYLAW 1P2007 AND BYLAW 39P2010
01:42:11 08.2 CPC2010-122, DOWNTOWN UNDERPASS URBAN DESIGN GUIDELINES NON-STATUTORY
02:35:24 08.5 CPC2010-125, PROPOSED COMMUNITY BOUNDARY CHANGE (SHEPARD INDUSTRIAL) NON-STATUTORY
02:37:07 09.1.1 C2010-68, ASSESSMENT REVIEW BOARD BILL 23 IMPLEMENTATION BUDGET REPORT – DEFERRAL REQUEST
02:40:50 09.1.2 C2010-69, SOUTHEAST LRT GREEN TRIP PROPOSAL
03:48:20 10.1.2 NM2010-42, AIRPORT TRAIL UNDERPASS, (ALDERMAN STEVENSON)
05:10:43 10.1.3 NM2010-43, 2011 BUDGET PROJECTIONS, (MAYOR NENSHI)
05:23:47 10.2.1 M2010-09, COUNCIL’S STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION 2010 NOVEMBER 16 AND 17
05:33:08 12.3 GREEN SHEET (ALDERMAN COLLEY-URQUHART), AUDIT SUB-COMMITTEE ON SNOW AND ICE CONTROL

(This video is released by Gordon McDowell into the Public Domain. If you need to recycle any components of it, use a plug-in for your browser which enables downloading MPEG-4 data from YouTube.)

Now (if you’re using a computer and not just a smart-phone or iPad), you’ll see that clicking on my indexed time-codes above jumps to the corresponding part of the video. That’s the best I can do for my own web page, but check out the YouTube video landing page, where you’ll see an Interactive Transcript button to the right of the video description. Click on various lines of transcription. Use your browser’s page-search (probably CTRL-F) to search for words or phrases. That’s Machine Transcription text, so it is pretty inaccurate, but it is still quite useful. (And as I describe later, there’s no need to settle for Machine Transcription.)

Transparency Expectations

I believe my video illustrates what citizens are hoping from City Council when improved transparency is called for.

  • The complete council session (minus “in-camera” moments meaning periods of private-discussion) is archived for later review.
  • Items (a portion for this example) from the session’s minutes are provided as a time-code so the appropriate portion of the video can be quickly found.
  • Dialog (a portion for this example) has been transcribed using Machine Transcription so that:
    • Any given phrase spoken during the session can be searched for.
    • The use of any particular word through out the time line can be searched for.
    • These searches can take place on YouTube’s video landing page, right within the browser.
    • Close Captioning is available on the YouTube video.
    • The transcript can be read as a faster alternative to watching the video (with or without Closed Captioning).
    • Machine Translation can then, in turn, offer up alternative language Closed Captions, for non-English speaking Calgarians.
  • YouTube does not require Windows Media plug-ins to be watched (as the live stream currently requires). This is probably why The City of Calgary has been using YouTube to share videos with citizens for the past 2 years.

Convenience Expectations

While such a video archive (including transcription) would meet transparency expectations, YouTube does nothing to help citizens who are trying to monitor City Council activity in real-time.

Most Calgarians with broadband and a PC can tap into the live Windows Media stream for the purpose of watching at home, or at the office. But citizens who are trying to interact with City Council (say, to speak when a particular item is being put forth) need portable updates.

For November 8th, I offered this in the form of an MP3 audio stream. This audio came from City Council’s XSL audio board, into my MacBook, to an IceCast2 server. The IceCast2 host serviced 45 unique listeners, most of which who tuned in during discussion of the airport tunnel, when the Windows Media Server crashed.

Server logs show the IceCast2 audio stream serviced computers running Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OSX.

iPhones and/or iPod Touches were also used to listen to the stream, illustrating that some Calgarians (given the opportunity) will choose to monitor City Council on their portable device.

Updates on portable devices could also be offered in text, via a distinct Twitter feed. The hardest part of such a solution has already been taken care of…

h02 m32 s11 f02 - closed captioning

…by the city’s Closed Captioning service! I’ve been told by a city employee Closed Captioning data is only available for live broadcast, and that City Council must approve its use for other purposes.

My Video Work-Flow

As I discovered during my first visit to City Council, all video cameras must be placed in one small area to the side of the chamber. I wasn’t prepared to have other camera crews show up and place their cameras in front of mine, so the start of my coverage is visually useless as I was occupied moving all of my gear to an unobstructed location. Audio was provided by an XLR output board, which provided audio at a level acceptable to my SONY HDR-SR1.

Having all the cameras forced into one location in the chamber sometimes resulted in shots like this…

back of head

…so I began recording Calgary.ca’s live Windows Media video stream (captured with VLC, and trans-coded with Super) to capture additional camera angles I otherwise did not have access to…

h04 m31 s00 f16 - 3 way

…and occasionally access to a live feed of the documents being edited…

h04 m36 s47 f10 - 3 way

After the council session, once I had compiled all the footage on my computer, I rendered out a 1-frame-per-second version with high quality audio for immediate upload to YouTube as an unlisted video. This was so YouTube could begin Machine Transcription of the audio early, to later provide Close Captioning and an Interactive Transcript. (The audio was rendered in advance because YouTube’s Machine Transcription is finicky, and I didn’t want to wait for a full video render & upload to complete before I learned how it fared with City Council audio.)

Then I “edited” the footage, being careful not to compress or expand the time-line so that my 1-fps-audio-render uploading to YouTube would match up with my 30-fps-video-render. The resulting 720p video took about 12 hours to render on a quad-core 2GHz Windows-64 machine. The 10 GB video was uploaded to YouTube in 2 hours using a library computer at Mount Royal University.

YouTube’s Machine Transcription was barely able to understand any of the City Council audio, so the available Closed Captioning on the video is incomplete and inaccurate. However, it does still illustrate how Closed Captions can be presented, and how the Interactive Transcript allows for easy searching of key words right within anyone’s desktop browser.

My Live Streaming Audio Work-Flow

I was unable to use the XLR output board audio directly with my MacBook’s mic/line input jack (not that I had any free time to trouble-shoot), but it was perfectly suited to my Sennheiser wireless transmitter/receiver which then ran into my MacBook line-in.

NiceCast ($40 USD) ran on my MacBook, relaying the audio from line-in to an IceCast2 server hosted by HMC for $10/month.

HMC then provided content for the following links, which currently lack City Council content, but do illustrate compatibility options:

  • Winamp (Verified works with iPhone iOS4, VLC, QuickTime.)
  • QuickTime (Verified works with QuickTime on Mac and Windows. Does not work with iPhone!)
  • windows Media Player (Oddly I can not get this one to work with my Windows 7 box.)
  • Real Player (Works with VLC but I’m not installing Real Media on my laptop.)

Proposed Live Video Solution for Calgary

Calgary’s need for a streaming video solution are mostly met by their current Windows Media Server approach. Which is to say, something exists which is working for most citizens.

Keep that running and focus on adding additional services for now, not upgrading existing ones.

Proposed Live Audio Solution for Calgary

There can’t be an easier and/or cheaper service City of Calgary can offer to citizens wanting to monitor City Council, than offering a live audio stream because:

  • There are multiple broadcast apps (such as NiceCast) to choose from. Many are open source / free.
  • Bandwidth use is minimal. I was able to stream from my MacBook to IceCast2 server over a tethered 3G connection.
  • Setting up a ShoutCast or IceCast2 host on a city server might take effort and debate, but paying $10 per month to an internet radio hosting provider would probably cover all of the City Council’s audio stream hosting needs.
  • If there is any challenge getting the line audio to a computer running client broadcast software (such as NiceCast), then the Windows Media stream could always be audio-hijacked, and routed back to an IceCast2 server. (Any Calgarian could do this from home, if the city isn’t interested in offering streaming audio.)

 
So to do this, all that City of Calgary needs is:

Proposed Video Archival Solution

As city employees know, Council Chambers are already wired to capture audio and video. Multiple video cameras are positioned around the room, and are already being controlled for the sake of streaming to television, and Windows Media clients…

Calgary City Council Video Camera

…either the edited video signal already being used for TV can be compressed and uploaded to YouTube as-is, or the multiple camera signals can be received onto a single computer, put in sync, edited into a split-screen view, and uploaded to YouTube as a 720p or 1080p video (if the multiple cameras are not HDV, thus allowing City of Calgary to make use of YouTube’s higher-than-NTSC resolution).

“But YouTube” only allows uploads up to 15 minutes in length!”YouTube Partner Account

Yes, unless you have a YouTube Partner account. I have one, and know for a fact that uploads 8 hours in length can be successfully processed by YouTube servers. Maybe longer ones work too, 8 hours is as long as I have ever uploaded. YouTube doesn’t say specifically how long an uploaded video can be for partner accounts.

I’ve contacted 2 City of Calgary employees, and both said that the City of Calgary is not interested in a YouTube Partner account.

Has anyone at City of Calgary ever actually seen a YouTube Partner account? Logged in to one?

Sure, there are monetization options, allowing advertising to be run over your YouTube videos. I expect (and hope) City of Calgary does not want to do that. Simply choose not to run ads.

But what else do you get?

Well, you can upload your own thumbnails, instead of being forced to choose between 3 pseudo-randomly generated ones. Have you ever uploaded a video, and all 3 thumbnails feature someone looking funny? Never again.

You also have the option of uploading videos of any length. Perfect for, say, hosting a City Council session.

This is free. Free in the way YouTube is free. If the City of Calgary can get one, there is no reason not to.

If you are a City of Calgary employee, and you control the YouTube account, there is no reason not to at least try. If I can get one, the City of Calgary should surely be able to get one.

Once a City Council session is uploaded to YouTube as a video, the Close Caption transcription can be uploaded as a caption track. YouTube can automatically determine when a piece of transcription is spoken, so it may not be necessary to recalculate all the time-codes created for the sake of TV Close Captioning. Now YouTube will not only feature Closed Captioning itself, and Machine Translated alternate language captions, but an Interactive Transcript on the video’s YouTube landing page.

You got all that, just from uploading the video to YouTube, then uploading the Closed Captioning transcription!

And don’t worry about “polluting” your YouTube channel which currently features short civic-minded videos, with sausage factory wonk. Any video uploaded as “unlisted” will not appear in your channel’s playlist, nor be discoverable via YouTube search. Embed the unlisted City Council archive videos on an appropriate Calgary.ca page, and if people want to fine those videos, they can find them via your archive web page.

Proposed Improvement to City Council Minutes

You’ll notice my own video indexes have links to time-codes which makes the video skip to the appropriate moment. What would also be handy, is if the “Item” (such as 10.2.1) could link to Calgary.ca’s minutes at just the right location.

This would be possible if Calgary.ca used anchor tag names for each minute item.

For example, Calgary.ca’s current HTML for a minute item is…

<p class="MsoNormal"><span style=" font-size:11pt; font-family:'Arial','sans-serif';" lang="EN-US" >10.2.1</span></p>

…but if it was…

<p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: 'Arial','sans-serif';" lang="EN-US"><a name="10.2.1">10.2.1</a></span></p>

…then that specific item could be linked to with a hyperlink formatted like…

this link <a href="http://agendaminutes.calgary.ca/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=71&doctype=MINUTES#10.2.1">to the exact item 10.2.1</a>

…and everyone linking to Calgary.ca’s website could be a little more specific if needed.

The End

Some of the low hanging fruit is hanging so low (free YouTube Partner account, IceCast2 hosts at $10/month) I’m hoping City of Calgary can implement something by the next session in Council Chamber (November 29th).

And if anyone’s read this far, email me and I’ll buy you a coffee. If you’ve found a new time-code in my video for a minute item I skipped, provide that time-code to me in your email, and the resulting coffee need not be a small one.

2010-11-15 Update

I’ve added a video summary to the start of this blog post, and I’d also like to thank Kirk Werklund for grabbing one of my cameras in City Council Chamber, and thus improving the quality of my Nov 8 coverage.

2010-11-20 Update

I submitted this blog post as a 3-1-1 comment to City of Calgary. Gregory Pastirik, a Strategic Legislative Analyst in the City Clerk’s office (as seen on YouTube) responded.

I do think our exchange would be of interest to anyone looking forward to easier access to City Council proceedings. With Gregory’s permission, here’s our exchange (minus the pleasantries)…

Gregory writes:

The ELMS project, which is the new system on which http://agendaminutes.calgary.ca is based, has been my focus for recent months. As the City Clerk’s lead on the project I can say that we looked to deliver an easier to navigate, easier to search experience when a visitor is exploring the Council record. Hopefully we have done so.

Legislative video is something we are very excited about.

The vendor from whom City Clerk’s purchased the solution on which ELMS is based was selected primarily because of their ability to easily add legislative video capabilities to a suite of other electronic legislative services.

Because the legislative video would be integrated with the agenda and minutes functionalities, the time-stamping process would be effectively immediate. Items already receive timestamps through in-meeting processes using ELMS and the video jump-to points are automatically created from that data. The time-stamps would be quite, as one is created for every substantive motion. Also, the video would appear directly in the same browser window as the meeting minutes and list of supporting documentation, so a viewer can easily access the record of decision, the information used in making that decision, and the video of the debate, all from one point.

Providing city-maintained legislative video has been a concern in the past due to the potential use of the recordings in legal proceedings. We hope these concerns can be allayed. Additionally, there is a significant hesitancy in using closed captioning data to create any kind of Hansard-like document. Closed-captioning is an inherently high-speed, high-error process that while useful for enhancing understanding, would not be a suitable base for any sort of contribution to the legislative record. As producing an accurate Hansard is prohibitively expensive, a video archive of meetings would likely be a much better solution.

If you would like to discuss or learn more about the proposed video solution, please contact me. I’d love to hear your feedback.

If you would like an example of the sort of functionality we hope to implement please visit the City of Las Vegas site at http://www.lasvegasnevada.gov/Find/Nov2010.asp and click on any of the Summary/Video links.

Gordon writes:

While I’m sure many Calgarians (including myself) would prefer a flawed transcript over no transcript, you are aware of legal implications of which I am not. Maybe a flawed transcript could be offered with a disclaimer? I mean the only way to offer Closed Captioning services on archival video in a cost-effective manner, is to recycle the flawed CC the city has already paid for, so by saying “no archival transcript” due to legal reasons, I expect you’re also saying “no Close Captioning on archives” for the same reason.

I’d really like to know when do you project such video archiving will be available to Calgarians?

If I can get a ballpark on that, then I can coordinate with other volunteers to ensure there’s no lapse in archival coverage. We’d really like to maintain a constant standard of coverage for the new council.

Also, if City of Calgary is interested in offering streaming audio for smartphone users to supplement the streaming video for desktop/laptop users, I can illustrate this during Nov 29 council session.

Gregory writes:

City Clerk’s recognizes the need for the Closed Captioning to be available on the archives from an accessibility perspective, but still needs to emphasize that it would not be an accurate record of legislative activity. A further complication is that currently only Council meetings are being Closed Captioned, not meetings of Council committees, of which we also hope to produce legislative video.

The audio stream idea is an idea that I have passed along to other staff in the organization. Illustrating your work in delivering a live-streaming audio may help raise awareness of the medium’s potential.

Council direction, including information regarding a retention period for legislative video is needed before the system could be implemented. Members of Council have been informed that the City Clerk’s office believes this functionality could be live within 120 days of Council’s direction and identification of budget monies to pursue the project. Until new Council direction and budget is received on this issue, no work can be performed. Any member of the public who would like to see Council’s policy altered, should contact their elected representative.

So on Nov 29, I’ll be using a different approach to achieve a similar result as Nov 8 coverage. Instead of videotaping at Council Chamber, I’ll be depending on the City of Calgary’s Windows Media Server to receive live audio/video coverage (and I’ll also be recording the proceedings on TV).

I will audio-hijack audio from the streaming video and relay it (via NiceCast on my Mac, and a cheap IceCast2 server) as a live audio stream. I’d appreciate not just City of Calgary staff reviewing it as a convenient way of monitoring council on-the-go, but Calgarians also evaluating it as being practical or redundant.

Video will be captured off Shaw Digital TV Channel 89 (onto a DVD-recorder), from which the Close Captioning data can be then retrieved.

This should be more reliable than the (incomplete) Nov 8 Machine Transcription, and help illustrate how the money our city spends on Close Captioning City Council sessions can be more fully utilized.

If anyone wants to help, I can still improve coverage by offering split-screen coverage… the city’s coverage only being 4×3 and YouTube supporting 16×9 means there’s unused space I can fill with anyone’s alternate angle. Please contact me if you’re keen on recording City Council all day. S’fun.

Also, I’d love to have someone else also recording council session onto a DVD recorder. Just in case anything goes wrong. I’ve never used one before. And I’ve never tried to record Close Captions from TV before. So some redundancy there would be nice. I mean even swapping DVD media will result in loss of coverage.

2010-11-30 Update

I’m consolidating Calgary City Council audio/video feeds, so that I’m not blogging every day I add more coverage.

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Calgary Mayoral 3 Candidate Debate

Here’s is the debate video most Calgarians have been waiting for. The top 3 candidates: Ric McIver, Naheed Nenshi and Barb Higgins.

Source material was culled from the 6 mayoral candidate debates I’ve posted to my own account. These debates can all be found by filtering my blog posts down to those categorized “POLITICS”.

I’ve seen a few comments on YouTube stating that I’m trying to make Barb Higgins look bad. While I certainly didn’t go out of my way to try make her look good, consider that there is a reason Higgins didn’t want a three candidate debate. The reason was not that she kicks ass discussing policy.

This 3 candidate debate consists almost entirely of questions that all 3 candidates had a chance to answer. Not every candidate answered every question! While the early debates consisted of very few questions being answered by every candidate, formats eventually shifted to token systems were candidates were given a limited number of opportunities to respond. This made for more intelligent debates, but meant many questions didn’t get responses from all 3 candidates.

I don’t apologize for showing Barb (IMHO) utterly failing to impress when asked how she’d cut red tape at CivicCamp, all 3 candidates fielded “how” questions, so that was guaranteed to be a keeper. But if you take the time to skip through some of the “complete” debates to monitor Higgin’s responses, you’ll probably find more jems like this one (18:32). Compare Higgins’ response to Jon Lord (who’s response follows Higgins).

Like you care what I think

The election is tomorrow, and I’m just about to share my thoughts now (before bed-time). I’ve waited this long because my opinion shouldn’t be important to anyone. Certainly not compared to facts. Facts are what I’ve been sharing when I shoot video. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re not entitled to our own facts. So if you’ve consumed any one of my debates, I like to think you’re about to cast an informed vote.

So now that the important stuff is out of the way, what do I think?

Barb Higgins might make an OK mayor. There are certainly other candidates who performed worse than her in the debates …out of a field of 15. But if we had instant run-off voting, my preference for mayor would have to be:

  1. Naheed Nenshi
  2. Wayne Stewart (who has stepped down and endorsed Naheed Nenshi)
  3. Ric McIver
  4. Jon Lord
  5. Barb Higgins

I knew of Naheed Nenshi long before the election from his TEDxCalgary talk which I enjoyed (as one of my favorites from the event) and videotaped for the TEDx team. Because of this, early in his campaign he asked me to help create a platform video, which I was happy to help with. But I felt it was too early to decide who I’d be supporting (or if I would even get involved at all beyond voting).

Naheed Nenshi became my #1 choice shortly after the “We Should Know Naheed Nenshi” event on September 15, during which he fielded questions from a room full of not-yet-convinced voters. His answers conveyed a deep understanding of a bewildering array of civic (and bureaucratic) challenges, and he let me videotape every Q & A exchanged. He did this after I made it explicit to him, I was still undecided and was doing so for my own video blogging purposes, not for his campaign.

What did not happen after that day, was that other candidates did not emerge with detailed policy proposals. It seemed no one else was even trying to convince me they understood how to reform Calgary’s bureaucracy. That they understood precisely why Calgary Transit is essential, and any sub-par performance on its part puts Calgary at a competitive disadvantage. That while our budget must be balanced, the bang-per-buck spent is more important than now many bucks.

Waste is the enemy. Wasted tax dollars. Wasted man-hours. The wasted intellectual capacity of city employees who don’t have an opportunity to improve their own processes.

So I volunteered to help the campaign, not just a good-luck-with-that platform video, but actually get involved. I have to say, if Nenshi can run Calgary as well as his campaign team have run their campaign, our city has some exciting times ahead.

The Nenshi campaign is described in the press as one that “employs social media” to market itself effectively. That is wrong. The campaign uses the internet to get stuff done in the manner any start-up would. That which can be delegated is delegated. That which can be crowdsourced is crowdsourced. Communication channels are always open. Initiatives are taken. Results shared. Lessons learned.

I never saw anyone lose their cool.

I never saw an opportunity that was missed because of a communications bottleneck or someone unwilling to make a decision.

I never saw a campaign dollar spent foolishly.

I didn’t agree with every decision that was made, but I never felt my input was being ignored, or that the decision making process was a poor one. And ultimately I don’t see any opportunities we missed (except for obvious financial constraints). I was (and am) surprised to see perpetual innovation and volunteer initiative. The team was all about getting stuff done.

In short, this was how an organization should be run.

Monday, October 18 is election day. It is going to be a great day.

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VoteCalgary (housing construction) Mayoral Forum

VoteCalgary (funded by Calgary’s housing construction industry) presented our mayoral candidates with questions which allowed candidates to pitch “consumer choice” and “freedom” against sustainable growth, should they so choose.

Comparing candidates performance at VoteCalgary forum, then contrasting against their performance against CivicCamp forum (where “sustainable” is all the rage) could have reflected poorly on any candidate to played too strongly to their respective audience. But candidates pretty much held their ground no matter who they were speaking to. (Darn! No explosive juxtapositions between debates!)

This forum (which allowed rebuttals and rebuttal-rebuttals) was refreshingly short… aside from an introductory question, and a closing question, the only non-bookend question was “How will you support inward, upward and outward city growth?”

Host
Moderator - ???
Craig
Craig Burrows
Joe
Joe Connelly
Bob
Bob Hawkesworth
Barb
Barb Higgins
Jon
Jon Lord
Ric
Ric McIver
Naheed
Naheed Nenshi
Wayne
Wayne Stewart
introduction 00:40 02:28 04:04 05:20 06:54 08:28 10:04 11:37
city growth         15:58   14:53 13:48  
            17:28 16:30  
  21:31     20:27 19:24 18:52 18:30  
    23:38 22:44 21:46       24:45
  26:17 25:20            
  28:00         27:21    
differentiate 29:02 29:56 31:00 32:04 33:12 34:15 35:18 36:21  

This video is released under Creative Commons share-alike 3.0 license.

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CivicCamp Mayoral Forum

Our mayoral candidates faced off in University of Calgary’s MacEwan Hall for what must have been a grueling 2 hour plus debate. CivicCamp‘s inclusion of Oscar Fech and Gary Johnston brought the total participants up to 10 (out of the 15 running), in what is currently looking to be a 3-way race.

“What’s going on here? Can you believe it!?” -Oscar Fech

Did you know many candidates are polling at zero? As an infamous FOX NEWS host would say, “Now is no time to give up!”

The CivicCamp forum followed ArtsVote’s limited responses token system (this time it was poker chips), which kept things at a brisk pace, as did the entertaining lightning round.

This video is released under Creative Commons share-alike 3.0 license.

And I’d like to apologize to any color blind folk looking at my table. I’ve run out of ideas how to visually compress this information.

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ArtsVote Calgary – Mayoral Forum

An optimal candidate debate probably has some similarity to an optimal team size, too many members result in confusion, and ultimately… despair.

“The organizers had to make arrangements to get the candidates quite early. There are a few candidates running for mayor who are not onstage, but are here this afternoon. Afterwards, stick around and you can put your questions to them.” – Jim Brown

It would appear ArtsVote, by soliciting participation early and having a deadline, has solved this problem. Good on them, because the result was a better forum.

And, seriously, they put thought into how to force candidates to use their time wisely, and only speak when they have a critical point to make.

I enjoyed this Calgary mayoral forum immensely, and I hope you do too. Thanks to Chelsea Pratchett for help covering the event, and to ArtsVote for allowing me to do this in an official capacity.

Host
Moderator - Jim Brown
Wayne
Wayne Stewart
Ric
Ric McIver
Naheed
Naheed Nenshi
Jon
Jon Lord
Joe
Joe Connelly
Craig
Craig Burrows
Bob
Bob Hawkesworth
Barb
Barb Higgins
introduction 01:33 03:29 05:04 06:44 08:25 10:00 11:37 13:17
forced closures       19:22   21:02   17:18
affordable space     24:29   22:26      
accessibility   29:00       30:56 32:29  
CATA budget 34:10       35:49     36:55
arts festivals     43:10 39:08     41:27  
funding solution 50:14   46:39         48:35
retain artists 54:20 55:48       52:32    
funding pitch   60:15   61:57     58:13  
buh bye 67:00 66:38 66:13 65:24 Gone! 64:43 64:15 63:35

This video is released under Creative Commons share-alike 3.0 license.

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We Should Know Naheed Nenshi

Since February 2008, local artist and community-builder Mark Hopkins has hosted “We Should Know Each Other” parties in his living room.

“We Should Know Naheed Nenshi” was an event Mark organized (Sept 15th) to help undecided voters to hang out, talk, and hear Nenshi’s elevator pitch.

The event was open to everyone, had delicious food, sparked some fascinating conversations… the only thing missing was photons. You know, photons, like from the sun, from fire… from light bulbs. So the footage is kinda grainy.

I hope this coverage of Nenshi’s Q & A session illustrates why I think he’s such an exciting candidate for mayor. Nenshi’s policy proposals are very detailed, and it is clear he has a deep understanding of how to implement bureaucratic reform, and fix Calgary’s budgeting process.

skip
to
new
window
topic/
question
Nenshi’s thoughts condensed down
in to so few words as to be meaningless
02:12 02:12 Elevator pitch. Helps clients in private, public & government sectors increase their efficiency. At MRU teaches how to run non-profits effectively. Stands for sustainability [financial, social, environmental]. Will make Calgary a better place to start a business. Will fix city council.
13:52 13:52 Calgary Transit. Preferred choice, not last choice. Start experimenting with additional buses, increase capacity quickly. Express bus route that never goes downtown (already serviced by C-Train). Transit advisory committee made up of customers.
18:00 18:00 Public libraries. Incredibly important, particularly in areas with large English-as-a-second-language population. Does not believe director of library has proposed best budget cut options (stay closed on Sunday, halt opening of new N.E. branch). Does not know answer, but knows what questions to ask. Gives example, what are lowest used period for each branch? Can at least one library remain open in each city quadrant at all times? 2011 will be rough, 2012 should see restored services.
21:07 21:07 Broad change. Obama proposed new policies. Calgary is stuck in 1960s policy making. Lots of historical precedence for improving governance.
23:13 23:13 Social investment. Public transit is best investment.
23:48 23:48 Urban sprawl. Calgary developers more willing to engage in discussion than you think. Will not use developers as political football. If developers building livable communities fail, Nenshi will look bad. Need developers at table, but they can’t dictate terms.
26:52 26:52 Calgary film making. City can support new sound stage, or offer up civic resources. Not a subsidy war approach.
29:06 29:06 Winning. Campaign already projected third place on Labour Day. Alderman McIver’s support more solid than hoped. Barb Higgins is dropping like a stone. If Calgarians understand this is still a 3 person race, we will win. Our message resonates once people hear it, hardly anyone has heard it yet.
34:57 34:57 Gay community. Talking to all communities, what benefits Calgary benefits all communities. Discrimination (sexual, religion) is not the Calgary we are building. Acts of vandalism do not represent the Calgary McIver or Higgins want either.
38:24 38:24 Homeless. 10 year plan (Calgary is already following) is excellent. Lack of housing more of a cause than symptom of drug abuse. Homeless used to climb regardless of economy, now started to level off. Wants to start addressing poverty in similar manner.
40:58 40:58 Community green house. Streamlining, cutting red tape applies to projects of social value too, not just new businesses.
42:01 42:01 Arts & culture. Cites ArtsVote Q & A. Calgary needs flagship spaces for established artists, and facilities (in low rent neighborhoods) for emerging artists. Secondary suites & zoning changes will lead to lower cost housing & studio space. Likes proposal for International Avenue Arts Centre.
45:43 45:43 Evangelical interview. Don’t like gay pride parades? Don’t attend them. Everyone needs to be able to work together as a community.
46:47 46:47 Sale of ENMAX. Depends on price, depends on debt load. As public utility, ENMAX offers unique social value, is patient capital.
47:54 47:54 Local food. Down with community gardening. People should be able to try stuff (chickens!) in pilot projects.
49:23 49:23 City Council. Calgary City Council full of good people. New alderman will shake things up, gives opportunity to stop dysfunctional behavior. Governance reform, new procedures will help shift adversarial nature. Give ward alderman city-wide responsibilities.

This video is released under Creative Commons share-alike 3.0 license.

UPDATE: It appears Bob Hawkesworth has cited this video as Nenshi “being on the record” saying he’d sell ENMAX.

I believe anyone but Bob Hawkesworth watching this video would come to a very different conclusion.

I was already under the impression Hawkesworth was the only candidate factually wrong on the issue of the airport tunnel. Is this a Calgarian example of a political candidate inhabiting their own reality, as seen far too often in the USA?

Just the fact Hawkesworth isn’t willing to share where he saw Nenshi “on the record” talking about ENMAX, makes me think Hawkesworth knows he’s not on solid ground with his claim.

What pisses me off here, Bob, is that not only are you quoting Nenshi in my video out of context. You are behaving in a way that makes our mayoral candidates less likely to speak frankly about these issues. If every candidate knows their words will be taken out of context by their opponents, then they’ll revert to vague platitudes and intelligent discussion will cease.

Bob, I don’t see any video of you online sharing your insights on the topic of ENMAX. You know how hard it is to use an iPhone to video yourself talking in depth about any topic, and uploading that to YouTube? It is not hard at all.

UPDATE 2: Bob Hawkesworth first shoddily re-edited the We-Should-Know-Nenshi video (posting only his misleading edit), then finally (after a DMCA takedown citing the rules of the Creative Commons license) Bob linked to the original video.

Bob Hawkesworth is still being misleading on this, and I have no idea what his intention is at this point, except having the Nenshi campaign join his own in the “out of the mayoral race” category.

I’ve downloaded copies of the videos Bob’s posted, and I’ll have more to say on this once I’m done working on more important election video coverage (like indexing the content of mayoral forums).

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Calgary Leadership Forum’s Mayoral Debate

Derek McKenzie joined the mayoral race! Anyone else? Anyone? Anyone? C’mon folks, there’s still a month to go. What else are you going to do with your time?

The embedded video was shot & edited by Chelsea Pratchett (with help from Clinton Waller) on behalf of CalgaryDemocracy.ca. My contribution is strictly hosting it on my long-video-enabled YouTube account, and constructing the index table below.

If you don’t like my snarky comments below, don’t blame CalgaryDemocracy.ca, they’re 100% neutral and snark free!

Host
Moderator
Kent
Kent Hehr
Wayne
Wayne Stewart
Ric
Ric McIver
Paul
Paul Hughes
Naheed
Naheed Nenshi
Jon
Jon Lord
Joe
Joe Connelly
Derek
Derek McKenzie
Craig
Craig Burrows
Bob
Bob Hawkesworth
Alnoor
Alnoor Kassam
introduction 0:10:53 0:15:16 0:20:04 0:34:51 0:40:18 0:29:43 0:00:17 0:45:26 0:05:39 0:49:08 0:24:51
Alnoor, if you were still in the race, how would you cut taxes 2.5% annually? 0:54:10
Bob, is Calgary LRT really all that? 0:55:34  
Bob, how to deal with the deficit? 0:57:09  
Craig, how do you really feel about park & ride? 0:59:40  
Craig, are you for, and what priority is, the airport tunnel? 1:01:21  
Derek! Have you by chance been involved in community work? 1:03:08  
Derek!?! Is council an equal partner in managing community’s business? 1:04:05  
Joe, how do we attract staff for the new hospital? 1:05:01  
I’ve just spoken to our psyentistz. Joe, the fluoride is toxic. 1:06:04 Our precious bodily fluids!
Jon, why did we let the province take our taxes? 1:08:12 You can get them back, right?
Jon, how can we provide affordable housing? 1:09:30 (To low income community?)
Naheed, what budget process will you use? 1:11:19 (To make the administration accountable?)
Naheed, how to fund the airport tunnel? 1:13:00 Let’s be like Charles Bronson in The Great Escape!
Paul, why is housing unaffordable? 1:14:41 It contributes to our homeless problem.
Paul, how can Calgary’s arts & culture 1:16:08 become world class? <take-a-shot />
Ric, transportation. 1:18:18 You can fix that, right?
Ric, how would you 1:20:51 balance new projects against our debt level?
Wayne, how would you 1:22:29 bring cohesion to council process?
Wayne, how would you 1:23:17 support the homeless… with buns?
Kent, can you 1:24:45 make Calgary safer?
Kent, 1:26:14 you like gay people, right?
closing 1:29:56 1:29:54 1:31:50 1:33:28 1:35:38 1:37:53 1:39:27 1:41:22 1:43:00 1:45:08 1:47:35

You might notice a few small errors in the video’s title cards. Our workflow was a bit messy, as I’d never used iMovie before, let alone someone else’s project.

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Calgary Mayoral Forum by Golden Age Club

12 candidates for mayor is a lot. Maybe a few could drop out? Please?

The table below the video offers hyperlinks to particular moments in the debate video. Hold the mouse over a candidate’s name or question summary, for more details. Time codes appear out of order because candidates were constantly prompted to respond in changing order. Green background indicates which candidate was the first to respond to a given question.

Or, you could watch the entire 2 hour, 45 minute forum video from start to finish. (Whoa, I kid, I kid…)

Host
Moderator
Kent
Kent Hehr
Craig
Craig Burrows
Joe
Joe Connelly
Barb
Barb Higgins
Paul
Paul Hughes
Gary
Gary Johnston
Alnoor
Alnoor Kassam
Jon
Jon Lord
Ric
Ric McIver
Naheed
Naheed Nenshi
Wayne
Wayne Stewart
Bob
Bob Hawkesworth
introduction 0:24:09 0:22:24 0:20:40 0:18:59 0:17:19 0:15:44 0:04:53 0:06:49 0:08:40 0:10:25 0:12:11 0:13:55
East Village 0:28:50 0:30:36 0:31:56 0:34:04 0:35:55 0:37:59 0:40:09 0:40:57 0:43:07 0:45:21 0:47:39 0:26:55
qualifications 0:57:28 0:55:21 0:53:23 0:51:12 0:49:33 1:11:55 1:10:02 1:07:52 1:06:05 1:03:54 1:01:52 0:59:45
beholden to 1:34:50 1:13:32 1:14:03 1:17:11 1:19:18 1:22:09 1:23:13 1:24:36 1:27:22 1:28:41 1:30:47 1:32:36
inspiration 1:52:00 1:53:46 1:56:05 1:37:03 1:39:10 1:41:32 1:42:47 1:44:05 1:46:17 1:47:02 1:48:49 1:50:49
cut waste 2:18:45 2:16:30 2:14:24 2:12:01 2:10:11 2:08:14 2:06:04 2:03:54 2:01:37 1:59:39 1:58:17 2:20:36
promises 2:32:20 2:33:47 2:35:26 2:37:52 2:40:48 2:43:00 2:23:21 2:24:55 2:26:50 2:28:09 2:30:04 2:31:25
< < < 2 finger scroll > > > 2 finger scroll < < < 2 finger scroll > > > 2 finger scroll < < < 2 finger scroll > > > 2 finger scroll

I’m constantly trying to find more effective ways of conveying long and/or dense video information such as this. Aside from some issues with the YouTube offset hyperlinks not working on my iPhone’s iOS4.0 (it used to work under a previous OS, am still investigating), I’m not sure what else I could do to make debate footage such as this more engaging, or easier to navigate.

If you have any suggestions, or critiques of the 4 minute “highlight roll” at the start, let me know.

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Calgary Mayoral Candidates Forum

On August 12th, Calgary’s mayoral candidates met at Holy Trinity Family Centre to compare their platforms, and answer questions posed by the local community. This footage is released under Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.

skip
to
skip
to
mayoral
candidate
candidate
website
00:14 48:45 Naheed Nenshi nenshi.ca
02:27 45:42 Jon Lord jonlord.ca
04:49 44:51 Bev Longstaff for Wayne Stewart waynestewart.ca
06:49 41:38 Barb Higgins barbhiggins.ca
09:00 38:29 Joe Connelly joeformayor.ca
11:10 35:22 Alnoor Kassam alnoorkassam.com
13:17 32:13 Bob Hawkesworth bob4mayor.ca
15:29 28:59 Ric Mciver ricmciver.ca
17:38 26:11 Craig Burrows craigburrows.ca
19:58 23:11 Kent Hehr kenthehr.ca

This represents a slight alternation in the chronology of events, as originally each candidate was introduced by Wil Tigley, then each candidate was allowed to describe their platform, then each candidate closed by addressing 3 questions.

I’ve combined Wil Tigley’s introduction with each candidate’s description of their platform. That way the viewer isn’t trying to remember what a candidate’s bio is by the time they’re finally speaking.

If this is a concern, the raw footage is always available on the Internet Archive.

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By Any Means Necessary – Calgary Film Race

Before I vent, here’s our video. Our team featured many-a-fan of Shane Carruth’s Primer, and we were eager to see what we could pack into our Film Racing submission (which the rules cap at 4 minutes). We’re pretty darn happy with how it turned out!

However, we were beaten in all categories by Dink Pajama Party’s “Normal”, which everyone agrees kicked much ass. (Fun fact: Parts of it were shot in Calgary’s Hackerspace.)

If you get a chance to participate in a Film Race in your city, it is a heck of a fun way to spend 24 hours… plus the nap which follows.

Now, onto the anger.

SONY Vegas isn’t the worst purchase I’ve ever made… it has served me for years, and is pretty good at importing the broad range of video formats I throw at it. It has low overhead, and (big plus) can have multiple instances run at once.

And today’s SONY Vegas, run on my quad-core machine with 7 GB of RAM and 64-bit Windows 7, may occasionally crash, but it tends to recover work nicely and can get the editing job done.

But… the one thing Vegas never perfected: Exporting projects to various rendered formats.

“Gord,” you say, “Maybe you should point this out to SONY, and not be posting it on your blog like a whiny little bitch.”

Yeah, I’ve tried that. I’ve offered to ship a frigging hard drive full of video projects to SONY so they could run unit tests against the various projects to determine why renders fail. I’ve pointed out in the forums that projects can fail to render due to nothing more than project length.

I don’t think they care.

So when the Calgary Film Racing 2010 program guide includes an ad for SONY Vegas, and Calgary Film Racing asked for video projects to be submitted in QuickTime DV format, I was wondering…

Has anyone ever tried exporting a SONY Vegas project to QuickTime DV?

I’ll tell you what happens when I do it. Year after year. On different machines, different Windows operating systems.

The progress bar moves towards 100%, but never reaches 100%. Estimated time to render keeps increasing. Forever.

When you’re trying to meet a Film Racing deadline, that will kill you. SONY Vegas, the product advertised in the Film Racing program guide, will ruin your chances of making the 24 hour deadline.

Due to a bug that’s been there… certainly for the past 3 years I’ve been using Vegas. It is still there, in version 9.0e (64-bit).

That was the deadline-critical project I didn’t quite render this week with SONY Vegas. The less important one was a 90 minute comedy feature.

The feature will not render out using the SONY Vegas MainConcept MPEG-4 variable bit rate encoder. It crashes with an “unknown error”. It can be rendered with a SONY MPEG-4 constant bit rate encoder… which is just great if optimizing for high quality isn’t your thing.

That’s two export fails. In one week. Not one-time crashes. These are consistent, repeatable failures.

Vegas has really improved since I migrated from 32-bit to 64-bit… 32-bit was unusable for long, complex projects. No out-of-memory errors. Just frequent crashes when editing. Persistent crashes when rendering. I used have to render complex projects in tiny fragments, and piece them together in another simpler Vegas project. It isn’t that bad any more.

But the saddest thing about SONY Vegas is that I have no reason to think their QuickTime DV or MainConcept MPEG-4 rendering bugs will ever be addressed. They’ve been there for years. And SONY has no means of replicating these issues, so how can they be expected to fix them?

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