Why aren't Common Council meetings being televised as they were in the past? That is a question some city residents have been asking, among them Second Ward Councilman William Rivera.
Rivera, who is also council's ex-officio member to the city's Cable TV Advisory Board, was present at a recent meeting and expressed concern about the situation. The issue came up during a report from Cable Board Chairman Danny McGill.
McGill said the problem was a bad modulator, an outdated piece of equipment the board is trying to get replaced with a system of hard-wiring that would include the city court room and the second floor conference room where many meetings are held.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Second Ward Councilman William Rivera addresses the Cable TV Board recently as Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak (left) and board member Paula Arntz look on.
"Art Walker, who is the rep here for Time Warner, said he was going to recommend to Time Warner that City Hall be hard-wired because that would mean direct signals rather than going through the modulator. It would be better reception, better quality," McGill stated.
McGill noted it would also make things easier for Christa Haynes, who does the work involved for showing the meetings.
Rivera asked if that upgrade was part of the franchise agreement or would require the city to "beg and barter with them." McGill said was waiting to hear from Time Warner as the person the city deals with had been on vacation.
"Somehow we've got to get this going. I can't tell you how many heated conversations I've had with our mayor about what's wrong," Rivera stated. "Why isn't this stuff on the TV? Of course, I'm not halfway home and I'm being stopped in the middle of the road with a videotape of last council meeting and there was no making heads or tails of it. So what are we doing here?
"We're fooling around in my opinion. So whether I have to chase after AJ (Mayor Anthony J. Dolce) to get somebody to go after this hardwiring, whether we need a new modulator, we're getting this done as soon as possible."
McGill said the board knows what the problem is and a new modulator is not the answer. The consensus was the situation needed to be taken care of with the franchise agreement currently being negotiated between the city and Time Warner.
Rivera again expressed frustration with the situation.
"First of all, in my opinion we're still in the middle of a serious budget crunch, regardless of whether the mayor has an actual budget worked out or not," he began, "and we talk about what could we do with this, what could we do with that, and of course the question always comes in terms of the transparency part of city government. Having those meetings on the television is pretty much the whole part of it and right now it's non existent."
Rivera asked if there was someone he could call and asked for a number.
"I showed the mayor what it looked like the night of the council meeting. I specifically left it on, turned the TV to show him that this is what were dealing with," Haynes stated. "We don't like it, I don't like it any more than anybody else. ... I'm frantically trying to figure out what can be done to at least get a picture during the meeting."
Rivera said he noticed Haynes struggling and asked about recording the meetings.
Haynes said that would be the plan until the equipment is fixed.
"For years it's been good and now it sucks," she said.
Rivera said cutting the television station was part of a general budget discussion council and the mayor have had.
"We just start throwing ideas around about how we're going to be able to cut without putting too much of it on taxpayers. We've gone around the table and looked at everything," he stated. "It's like I just feel if this situation was taken care of, if we could say every Tuesday night that's on the TV, then I would almost feel safe to say, because I'll come right out and say it, we've looked at cutting everything. What can we cut?"
Part of his concern in seeking office was transparency in city government, something Rivera said is suffering without the broadcasts.
"If we have a situation where the meetings were on the TV all the time, I could say you know what? It's part of our transparency," he stated. "This is why we need this. I hope everybody can feel my angst in this current situation."
McGill pointed out Rivera was not the only one getting phone calls about the meeting situation and other cable concerns.
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