Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pleasant Prairie wisely defers action on televising meetings

The Pleasant Prairie village board last Monday wisely deferred taking any action on whether to telecast its meetings.

Despite a push from former trustee Alex Tiahybok and local gadly Bob Babcock, sr., the board, while not opposing televising meetings, received and filed a report from Village Administrator Michael Pollocoff describing the $26,000+ cost to acquire the basic hardware.

Frankly, as someone who became a broadcast engineer at the ripe old age of 13 (and that's a long time ago), Pollocoff's estimate is probably too conservative.

I've long supported broadcasting meetings but only if there are sufficient funds to do so. As Trustees Clyde Allen and Michael Serpe pointed out, requests for several items critical to public safety, such as squad car video cameras and recorders, were not included in the final budget. It makes no sense to authorize this expenditure outside of the budget cycle when public safety needs remain unfilled.

There are, of course, options that would cost less.

The village already puts audio files of board meetings up on its web side and Tiahnybok posts low quality video clips on You Tube. A live audio webcast could be done at minimal cost and should be considered.

A live broadcast serves several functions. First, as one California resident put it when discussing a similar issue before his city council, "If something interesting comes up, I might want to put on my shoes and come down here." Further, people will be able to hear the proceedings as breaking news instead of historical events. Finally, the news media could choose to more aggressively follow board proceedings and report on them.

While telecasting may have some appeal, it's more costly than an audio webcast. I agree with trustees who say that if it's going to be done, it was to be done right. A home video camera does not produce broadcast quality resolution plus unless the existing lighting and color casts are fixed, they'd wreak havoc on a telecast.

While I congratulate freshman trustee Monica Yuhas for requesting the study, I'm very disappointed that the board hasn't seen fit to do the next best thing and stream the audio live on the village web site. The cost to do is is minimal and it should be done.