Committee of the Islands

Keeping Sanibel Special Since 1975

Let the People Hear Their Government in Action

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February 24, 2012

Let the People Hear Their Government in Action Published February 24 , 2012 , in the Island Sun newspaper By Barbara Joy Cooley , president Committee of the Islands Here are two complaints about our City Council meetings that come up from time to time : 1 ) Daytime meetings don’t give people who work a chance to attend without incurring some hardship ; yet the few evening meetings that have been held have not been well - attended , with most people preferring the daytime meetings . 2 ) Regardless of when the meetings are held , citizens who do attend to hear discussion about a specific agenda item often have very long waits before the item comes up . Is there some way to address both concerns ? We believe there is . And at a recent council meeting , I brought it up during the public comment period : Why not have the City broadcast the audio of the council meeting on its website , where members of the public could access it at any time ? It could be done with livestreaming software , which is now amazingly affordable . The Board of Directors of the Committee of the Islands subsequently voted to endorse this suggestion . We think it would be most practical to keep the council meetings at the currently scheduled times , but make it easier for people who work ( and other busy folks ) to listen in on the council meeting via the internet . Then when the issue that concerns them is about to be heard , they can take a pause from their work to attend that part of the meeting . Or they can just listen to the meetings because they want to be better informed as Sanibel citizens . Audio Already Available to City Workers The City already makes an audio feed of the meetings available to its own workers , in order to enable them to use their time efficiently . The same audio feed can be made available to all working people ( and others who may not be able to attend the meetings for a variety of reasons ) through the use of livestreaming software we referred to above . After the Committee of the Islands sent a letter to council about the audio livestreaming idea , Council Member Doug Congress brought it up at the council’s February meeting . In fact , in the past Council Member Jim Jennings has suggested video broadcasting of the council meetings . But video is costlier and more difficult ; plus , people have a natural reluctance about appearing on the small screen . The initial response by other Council Members to Doug Congress’s suggestion seemed to be favorable . In the interest of transparency of government , participatory democracy , and public information , we think the City should make the council meetings ’ live audio available on the internet . We urge the City to take the steps necessary to make that happen . The Committee of the Islands welcomes your input on this subject . Email your comments to coti @ coti.org . You can find commentaries on other island issues on our web site at coti.org , and you can visit Committee of the Islands on Facebook .

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