The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Monday, September 26, 2011

Watch City Council Meetings on PCTV 34/96


At my first city council meeting, back in January 2011--a time of innocence.
Plainfield residents who are unable to attend city council agenda and/or business meetings are able to watch the meetings in their entirety on our public access channel, PCTV 34/96 Channel 34 (Verizon) or Channel 96 (Comcast). The meetings air every week at the following times:

Thursday evenings: 8:00 pm

Friday evenings: 9:00 pm

Saturday mornings: 8:00 am

The meetings also can be "DVR'ed" by those who have this capability. In addition, a DVD copy is kept in the City Clerk's office at 515 Watchung Avenue. These videos are available to all councilors and the administration, as well as to the public.

I am bringing this up because I have received feedback from residents who are unable to attend the meetings, and yet have some specific comments on what I may have said, or on particular council actions. Frankly, I cannot remember everything I may have said, even when I write notes during the meetings. I have gotten into the habit of reviewing bits and pieces of the meetings--not out of any narcissistic desire on my part to see myself on television. I watch parts of the meetings to recall correctly the exchanges between myself, my fellow councilors, the administration, and the residents who come before us. I find that I have to pay particular attention to the discussions that occur at our agenda setting sessions, as these sometimes go on for several hours.

I have to admit, I missed a portion of one agenda meeting on July 11 of this year, as I was on a flight that came in a bit late, but I was able to “catch up” on the discussion when it was aired over the public access channel. I was thus able to go into the following week's business meeting (July 25) knowing what was discussed in my absence, and knowing what my fellow councilors' views were. Certainly, all of us on the city council should be able to comment before voting at the business meetings, or to offer some additional feedback on items coming up for a vote before us, but I feel it is my obligation to make sure that I am aware of the discussions that occur in my absence without having the entire discussion discussed ad nauseum before voting. 

Several regular attendees of our meetings have said that the constant repetition shows a disregard for the public, as they think it is our collective duty to be professional and to be aware of all discussions, as we are public servants paid by them. I agree. On occasion, of course, it is possible that some among us will miss a meeting or a television airing, but it should remain a rare occasion. 

I hope that you are able to catch some of the meetings on television--it's certainly not as much fun as watching The Office, or Prime Suspect, Rachel Maddow, or some other more entertaining program,but it is important to watch how public servants, elected by you and beholden to you, act and vote on your behalf.

All best,

Rebecca

5 comments:

  1. It's almost as if the schedule is designed to minimize viewership of Council meetings. Why only 8 at night and 8 in the morning? How about one day at noon and one at 6PM? The meetings last long enough as it is, and the current schedule forces you to either stay up late, or dedicate your entire Saturday morning.

    And there's plenty more that can be done with the station too. Start by separating it from Information Technology. As I've suggested in the past, hiring a Media Specialist to handle the cable station and the city's website would do wonders improving the content and timeliness of each.

    As it is, it's a perfect example of the hodge-podge that's our city government structure; A three-headed unfocused dumping ground of municipal activity.

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  2. Hi, Alan,

    I agree with you that the viewing schedule should be increased. Given the dearth of programming on the station, that should be easy to do. I will see what I can do. Regarding your other comment, yes, we need a competent, experienced media person to run the station.

    Rebecca

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  3. I don't see why meetings can't be streamed live on the website and archived within a few days, along with broadcasts on TV at various times of day over the course of a week.

    I hope you can make some headway along these lines.

    As for a media specialist, I think a creative and technically savvy person could be able to handle maintaining the website and bring expertise to the TV end of things.

    That individual could coordinate efforts throughout the community to develop content for the station and enlist trained volunteers/interns (seniors and students) for event coverage and other production items.

    They would work in conjunction with the City Clerk's office and the City Administrator on web content, and with an independent board of directors on TV programming.

    I'd like to see the City Council, the Administration, and residents who want a better city, support the idea that the time is ripe to make needed structural changes that bring better services at the right cost. The Media Specialist is a small building block among many.

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  4. I hope Councilwoman Rivers reads this and takes note. It appears that she absolves herself from any responsibility of knowing what went on at the meeting because of her lack of attendance.

    Obviously, the council should not take absense as an excuse for not knowing what is going on at the meeting.

    Thank you for posting this.

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  5. Alan--regarding your last comment--yes, seniors and students comprise the volunteer staff at many of the public access stations in the surrounding areas, and many produce quality programming. Also, live streaming the meetings and airing them at a few additional times are, ideally, in the works. I hope to receive an update at the next Cable Board meeting.

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