I was held down and held back from participating in Zoom workshop

To the Editor:

Wake up, Westerlo; don’t let us become ostriches!

Attending the Westerlo workshop meeting, on Sept. 1 via Zoom, in my opinion, was the biggest obstruction of government of the people. I have been attending these Zoom meetings since the onset of COVID mandatory rulings.

Although I make no claim to being a genius in technology, I can smell the air so clearly when something stinks, and to me, it sure did stink!

The early onset of these Zoom meetings, I believe, were democratically oriented. Now, I believe, it is paving the way for dictatorship — wake up, New York State and Westerlo.

For those of you unfamiliar with how Zoom works, I’ll try to enlighten you a bit. You are given an ID number designated by the town’s website or (initially) via the notices in The Altamont Enterprise, stating the name, time, date, and number of the meeting. You insert that ID into the Zoom app and follow the screen instructions to get you into a meeting where you opt to have yourself on video (web cam) or block the cam and just use the audio and/or phone.

Looks something like Hollywood Squares and amazingly interesting.

After the meeting is opened, you can participate by un-muting your designated screen location and hopefully communicate with your elected officials, who are supposed to be representing you. The person in charge of this meeting is called the host.

The earlier meetings had our supervisor, William Bichteman, as our host. For the most part, I am a frequent verbal participant and I like my questions answered clearly. I was given a fair amount of communication time.

On Sept. 1, for some so-called technical reason, I was unable to un-mute my territorial square. The host for the meeting had control over, I believe, all the Zoom clients. This apparently is a permitted Zoom option.

 Now this is the part that stinks! I was held down and held back. I believe this to be in violation of an open meeting and the democratic process including “freedom of speech.” So I used my resources with the chat (typing button) explaining my dilemma.

The town attorney, Javid Afzali, typed in a few ideas for me to do. I, in return, typed my responses.

I have two main questions:

— Who was the host; and

— Who was controlling the mute/unmute indicator?

I personally feel that I was sandbagged or excused out by the statement that it was a technical issue. I much prefer correct procedures and positive results instead of apologies. Although, a sincere apology could be worth its weight in gold.

To me, the issue of control has now entered the picture and is becoming a neon sign. Who is plugging that sign in, or better yet unplugging it?

My final thoughts on suggested constructive criticism are: Forget the Zoom option to control your subjects by this undeserving option of you doing the muting. I credit and blame the current management for the good, bad, and the ugly in reference to this form of operational procedure.

All individuals should speak up louder and enunciate their words without mumbling. The podium mic should also be used by the board members if their voice projection is not audible to all, which occurs often.

I am aware that the expense for purchasing new equipment is currently not a practical option, so tweak what you have or use some of the bucks that were accrued by eliminating employees.

In no way should the town clerk have to monitor the Zoom procedure. Full concentration is needed for accurate minutes to be recorded by her. She can’t be running back and forth. That suggestion only takes a bit of common sense.

Closed caption might be a better feature to incorporate, if possible, into the Zoom meetings — that is if you truly care. Plus I am grateful that my “freedom of the press” has not been denied, which is a fact that stays in my memory bank for current and future use.

Anita Marrone


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