Check your local listings…

BY Christopher Lang and Rebecca Andrews, Northern Valley Suburbanite, Published April 16, 2008

It won’t be as popular as “American Idol” or any other reality TV show but the impact will be a greater benefit to residents.

Mayor Peter Rustin continued efforts at a recent council meeting to have the public sessions aired on the local cable access channel.

“If we air the meetings residents would have a better sense of what is happening,” Rustin said.

On any given night when a council meeting is held it’s a handful of residents who attend the meetings. Even when the budget, one of the most important items, is being discussed, no one shows.

Across the board, council members acknowledge that poor attendance from residents at these meetings is a problem. However, the initiative to televise council meetings remains stalled due to a lack of information about the broadcasts and the large amount of time recently spent resolving the budget.

Councilman Jon Warms is in favor of televising the meetings but worries that the council chambers aren’t wired to be able include video cameras. He also had questions about the hours that high school students could run the cameras because council meetings often run late.

Councilman Patrick Rouse said he’s not opposed to the idea of televising the meetings but said it’s hard to tell if it would have any effect on the public. He thinks Subject matter will play a large part because meetings have higher attendance if there’s a hot topic but only two or three residents if there’s not. Rouse thinks there are too many open-ended questions at this point in time.

“Once the budget situation is taken care of, I think we’ll go back and see what we want to do,” he said.

Councilwoman Carol Hoernlein agreed.

“The biggest priority we have is the budget,” she said. “We still have one more meeting on the budget.”

Hoernlein, though, similar to her council peers doesn’t have a problem with broadcasting council meetings to be aired during the week.

“If done, this would let people know what is going on at the meetings,” she said. “A lot of times people are busy, and the meetings can be very boring,” adding that this may solve any communication gaps that the council has with informing residents.

She does, however, think that it would be better to televise the council’s work sessions, which tend to be longer but also provide more information. As opposed to the regular public meetings, where the voting takes place, she said there is little discussion and “they move more quickly.”

The council has taken steps to improve communication with residents. Recently, it improved the newsletter, which informs residents what is going on throughout the community, whether it be about garbage pickup or pending laws.

Yet as far as this getting done soon, Councilman Michael Lattif said the council is “nowhere on this right now.”

“The reason is because at the joint use meeting there is going to be some discussion between the government and the school district to work out any problems and figure out logistics and associated costs,” he said.

He said the next joint use meeting isn’t until October adding that while discussion may continue, from now until that time, the joint use members have questions they want answers to first. School District Superintendent Morton Sherman said the students are prepared to videotape public meetings, when the council is ready.

High school students already videotape Board of Education meetings. Sherman also said that there are no costs since the cable company already provides the local access channel and the district is willing to provide the service to help keep residents informed about local government business.

“But,” said Lattif, “I do see it as a way to inform our residents of what the council is discussing.”

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