>An excellent article appears in today’s edition of the Tow River Times titled “Twp. Officials Differ On Wisdom Of Videotaping Meetings“, it is written by reporter John Burton and pretty much counters everything that has been said by Gerry Scharfenberger as to why Township Committee meetings can’t be televised over the local cable access channels.
Burton contacted a spokesman for Verizon, Mr. Duthaler, who explained that “Cable companies take a small portion of the money paid to them by customers, and pay those allotments to the varies towns, what are called franchise fees. Some communities use portions of those funds to tape and broadcast meetings and other community information…
Sometimes municipalities negotiate with the cable providers, which can cover much, possibly all, of the cost of equipment. If Verizon is available in a community, that company, under its state agreement, would make available the necessary equipment and train personnel for any municipality that wants it, that’s the way for them [towns] to get anything they want, all the equipment, all for free”.
The article goes on to say that the cost of televising meeting is only ~$14k-$15k a year, which is a far cry from the $120k figure that Gerry Scharfenberger told residents at Shadow Lake Village last night it would cost when asked.
Burton also contacted representatives from Long Branch and Howell Twsp. to ask their opinions about how well things have worked out with televising meetings and both shared with him the same sentiments. “I think its working out well.”
As to Scharfenberger’s worrying about legal responiblities if something inappropriate is broadcast, David Bonowski, Howell’s director of Management Information Systems, stated that in the six years Howell has been doing it(taping meetings for public broadcast)ed there has been no editing of content. “We haven’t had anything happen at a meeting that would violate the FCC public guidelines and regulations.”
So what is the problem here other than Scharfenberger and the Republicans that have been in control of Middletown for over 30 years, just don’t want to do it.
Committeeman Sean Byrnes is qouted as charging,“opponents are actively trying to keep meetings from being made available for the public.”
“I think if you could pick up the clicker and put on the local equivalent of C-Span and see what’s going on,” he said, “I don’t see how it can hurt.”
I happen to agree with him as do many other residents on this issue. Whenever you can bring more transparency to the process of government it is a good thing, especially when you consider that the costs of recording and broadcasting meeting can be done for little to no costs to the tax payer.