Mixed Reaction So Far To Idea Of Recording More Board, Commission Meetings

Mayor Phil Kramer is talking to township boards and commissions about recording and possibly televising their meetings.

Update 3: After a lengthy discussion, the Human Relations Commission deferred making a recommendation to the Township Council, pending information members said Mayor Kramer was going to supply. The mayor also told the commission that part of the recording package would be a relocation of their meetings from the library’s Historic Collections Room to the municipal building’s large conference room.

Update 2: The Shade Tree Commission on June 22 voted to support a recommendation that its meetings be recorded.

Update 1: The Open Space Advisory Committee supported a recommendation at its June 20 meeting that its meetings be recorded and televised. Committee member David Triggs made the motion, saying that the committee deals with “so much public funding.”

Original Story: Mayor Phil Kramer is having mixed success so far in his “tour” to garner support for video recording more township board and commission meetings.

The Township Council on June 13 decided to broaden the number of such meetings that are recorded and televised on FTTV, the township’s public access channel, after the idea was broached by Kramer. Not every meeting will be televised, due to limited airtime.

Kramer told the council that he would tour the township’s commissions and committees with the idea, not to give them veto power, but to hear members’ thoughts on the idea.

So far, he has been before the Trails Advisory Committee, the Environmental Commission and the township Redevelopment Agency, telling their members about the council’s desire to record more meetings.

Kramer said the Trails Committee members voted unanimously to request that their meetings not be recorded. The Environmental Commission voted at its June 19 meeting to support recording, and the Redevelopment Agency members said they would discuss it.

The final decision on which committees, commissions and board meetings will be recorded and possibly televised rests with the council. The Redevelopment Agency is autonomous, so its commissioners will make the final decision.

The council’s action came in the wake of a June 5 editorial in the Franklin Reporter & Advocate calling for the recording of meetings of all township boards and commissions.

The council envisions installing a camera in the municipal building’s large conference room, where a majority of board and commission meetings are held. The council chamber already has a video system installed.

“It’s going to be a while before we capture every one,” Kramer said at the Environmental Commission meeting. “But I think the idea of moving forward is good. Between these two rooms, we’re gong to catch a lot of meetings.”

Kramer told the Environmental Commission that some Trails Advisory Committee members were afraid of the exposure recording the meetings would bring. He said one member had already been confronted by someone angry that one township trail was being intermittently closed for hunting.

Environmental Commission members took just the opposite view.

“I wouldn’t care,” commission member David Triggs said. “I think a lot of the things we talk about would be nice for the public to hear it.”

“They can’t come here, but if they can sit at home and flip thru the channels and we’re on, maybe they’ll listen to some of the things we’re taking about,” he said.

“We tend to be very informal, and lots of  times when we’re chatting, we come forth with information that’s very interesting,” commission member Cecile Maclvor said. “I wonder if that would be stifled.”

“I hear that every time I talk about televising a meeting,” Kramer said. “Every group says it’s going to stifle conversation, but they’re all open meetings.”

“I do think I, at least, would be less chatty,” MacIvor said.

“We all would,” commission member Arnold Schmidt said.

“Eventually you would forget that they were televised,” Kramer said. “Yes it stifles things, but if we believe in open government, shouldn’t we make it easy for people to view what is going on in government?”

“Any meeting like this should be televised,” Triggs said.

Even with concerns, all commission members voted to recommend their meetings be recorded.

Kramer asked the commission to send a letter about its decision to the council.

“The more of these letters we get the better,” he said. “I think council is pretty set on doing this, but maybe there’s a suggestion of how and why and where.”

Schmidt also suggested that board and committee meeting agendas and minutes are placed on the township’s web site i a timely manner. That suggestion will be included in the letter the commission send to the council.

Later, Kramer told the Redevelopment Agency commissioners that “a meeting as important as this could be on the television schedule.”

Commissioner Bob Mettler said he’d be concerned about someone turning off the camera when the agency entered into executive session. Kramer said one of the commissioners would turn the camera on and off.

Commissioners said they would discuss the matter at a future meeting. Kramer said he’d like to have a decision by the time the camera is installed in the meeting room, but did not say when that might be.


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