In the name of lack of transparency, there appears to be a movement brewing toward pushing the City of Oakley into broadcasting its council meetings via TV along with a live Internet feed and archives. Unfortunately, these rabble-rousers are blowing this need out of proportion at the expense of other more urgent items.
This claim floating around about a lack of transparency is amusing.
Anyone can go down to city hall right this minute and request a copy of the council meetings that are recorded. Yes, the video quality stinks, but the audio quality is quite decent. Most importantly, it is available to anyone at any time. Nothing is being hidden from the public.
A recent newspaper story entitled “Oakley Content To Keep Council Meetings Offline” provides details that of the 19 cities in Contra Costa, six don’t use Internet or TV.
Crunch the numbers and Oakley is in the 32 percent not using Internet or TV. It’s not like Oakley is the only one not providing this convenience; it’s a rather high number of cities not meeting this request of a select few.
Paul Seger was quoted recently in a newspaper article claiming, “It’s absolutely the best thing that the City Council can do if they want people to regain trust in them.”
Mr. Seger videotapes council meetings. If he cares so much about transparency and regaining trust, why doesn’t he just donate his higher-end recordings to the city so they can reproduce them as copies or post them online? Mr. Seger could go a step further and just post his full recording online himself for all to view. Rather than complain, he should consider becoming part of the solution.
The city attempted to provide broadcasts of its council meetings in 2008, according to a newspaper article. Unfortunately, it did not work to broadcasts standards. My question is: why is the city being attacked when the vendor, who is supposed to be an expert, is the one who provided sub-par equipment by the use of security cameras versus industry-standard broadcasting cameras?
Rather than spending $20,000 on new equipment, the vendor should fix the problem at their expense so the taxpayer is not “double billed” on something that was promised in the first place.
One solution that could be a win for Oakley is to take the recordings the city already provides and convert them to MP3 for download or online streaming after a meeting. Providing audio only would reduce picture-quality and zoom problems.
This solution would promote immediate transparency to those complaining while allowing residents unable to attend the meetings with the opportunity to listen to the meeting at their convenience.
To determine if there is a demand for actual live broadcasts, the city could review the audio figures to decide if a greater investment is needed. But to act on what a very small percentage wants is irrational and not a good use of city funds at the expense of more pressing needs.
If it comes down to broadcast equipment versus public safety or other core services, I would hope the city passes on the broadcast equipment any day of the week.
If people are truly concerned about transparency and collecting information, they should make the effort to show up to a meeting in order to gather information and engage the council and city staff.
Michael W. Burkholder, Oakley