Montclair will not livestream Tuesday’s council meeting
Linda Moss/File Photo
The broadcasting and livestreaming of the Montclair Township Council’s conference meetings could be ending as early as Tuesday night. The council is going back to in-person meetings.
A 3:47 p.m. Tuesday email from Councilman Peter Yacobellis to the media and others announced: “I just learned that our council meeting tonight, because it is considered a ‘conference meeting’ will not be broadcast on TV34 or streamed on YouTube. To be clear, we will be voting on resolutions and ordinances tonight versus just discussing items. I think this is outrageous.”
The council has been broadcasting and livestreaming both regular and conference meetings since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Prior to that, it only broadcast regular meetings.
No separate announcement was made on the township website, but the township's events calendar does state that the meeting is “in person, no live stream.”
On Tuesday night’s agenda is a resolution in support of medical marijuana dispensary Ascend’s plan to expand to recreational sales, and the introduction of an ordinance amending Montclair’s cannabis law to allow for three retailers, instead of the two originally planned. Other ordinances and resolutions up for vote include the approval of the Montclair Center BID budget, an amendment to a 2020 bond ordinance to include an additional project and an ordinance renaming the Business Set-Aside Program to the Diversity Inclusion Program.
Residents who wish to speak at the public portion of the meeting will have to do so in person. The council will no longer be taking call-ins by the public.
Pre-pandemic, conference meetings were held in the second floor conference room of the township municipal building, and were not broadcasted or recorded. The council rarely took action on agenda items at conference meetings, typically only discussing them. The items were listed as for discussion only on agendas as well.
Action on those items would take place at the next regular council meeting, held in the council chambers, which are equipped with cameras and video recording equipment. Those meetings were broadcast on TV34, but not livestreamed. They’d typically be posted sometime shortly after the meetings on YouTube.
Yacobellis said that Township Manager Tim Stafford made the decision not to livestream Tuesday’s meeting “based off of that tradition.”
Tuesday’s meeting will take place in the council chambers, where the township has the capability to broadcast and stream sessions.
“I spoke with him [Stafford] earlier and he will of course execute the will of the governing body, should a majority of us decide to have the meeting broadcast on TV34 and on YouTube. I'm reaching out to each of my colleagues to ask them to support my efforts to do that for tonight and to then establish a policy going forward that invites transparency and engagement with the council,” Yacobellis said.
But Yacobellis said at 5:30 p.m., just an hour and a half before the meeting was set to start, not enough council members had been reached to have majority support for broadcasting that night.
Councilman Bob Russo told Montclair Local by email late Tuesday he’d just been arguing with "management staff" and Councilman David Cummings about the plans around meeting broadcasts and call-in procedures.
“We need complete transparency and availability for all residents, especially seniors, when now holding in-person meetings,” he said.
Other members of the council, Stafford and Deputy Township Manager Brian Scantlebury haven’t yet returned an email sent late Tuesday afternoon seeking comment.
This article has been updated to correctly cite Councilman Bob Russo saying he'd argued with management staff over the decision not to livestream meetings. An earlier version of this post incorrectly cited Russo saying he'd been arguing with Township Manager Timothy Stafford; he hadn't specified who on the management staff he'd meant.