Tech Committee Considers Cameras for Council Committees

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A city that recently dubbed itself an open source community is discussing ways to provide more access to city committee and commission meetings through the Internet and TV.

The Raleigh City Council’s Technology Committee Tuesday discussed whether to add cameras to a third floor meeting room often used by committees. The additional equipment would enable the city to stream more committee meetings both to the Internet and to the city’s public TV network, RTN.

Right now, the city council chamber has three cameras for that purpose. Meetings in that room can be viewed live on RTN, channel 11, or online at any time. But not all the city’s committees meet in that room, making other public discussions less accessible.

Currently no city council committee meetings, which are typically held during the day or at 5 p.m. are made available online or RTN. City Council, Planning Commission and the Raleigh City Advisory Council’s meetings are the only public meetings taped and archived by the city.

Adding one camera with audio to room 305 will cost a minimum of $9,950, reported Jayne Kirkpatrick, the city’s head of public affairs. Adding three cameras and audio, such as the set up in the council chambers, will cost at least $25,000. Neither of those costs includes the room survey that must take place to configure the wiring.

One camera in the room would be positioned head on, showing only the committee members, Kirkpatrick said.

“It’s going to look really bad,” she said. “It’s going to look far below what we want any Raleigh product to look like.”

In addition to the equipment costs, some staff members will be needed to manage the extra streaming and recordings. Kirkpatrick said that could be handled by additional staff if done in council chambers, but extra staff might be needed if more meetings took place in Room 305.

Kirkpatrick said the cheapest option is to have the council committees meet in the Council Chamber. Right now, three of the five council committees meet in Conference Room 305 in City Hall, including the Technology Committee. Those meeting times conflict with meetings taking place in council chambers, and would have to be rescheduled.

Councilor Bonner Gaylord liked that idea.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s a significant amount of time to be able to provide additional staffing for meetings,” he said. “If it can be covered, we may want to just discuss whether this meeting can be moved to a time that more people can watch.”

But Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin observed that scheduling committee meetings is difficult, given people’s various schedules, travel times and coordinating with staff for information following council meetings.

Gaylord and Baldwin then both considered the three-camera option, discussing whether it is worth the investment.

“From a public standpoint, how much demand is there to increase the streaming video for other committees?” Baldwin said.

Baldwin suggested the cost be more worthwhile if the city’s other boards and commissions agreed to meet at City Hall to take advantage of the equipment. The city has 21 appointed boards, commissions and committees, plus six joint boards, commissions and committees.

One city staffer observed that many of those groups do not want to meet at City Hall because of the parking fees.

Kirkpatrick suggested it simply be offered to those groups for feedback.

“I see this as another prong in our open source and transparency,” she said. “If we offer this to the different commissions and committees, then obviously if it’s important to them, then they will make the effort, but at least we will be offering.”

Baldwin also asked about adding in the cost of streaming video to iPads, a feature that is available through the city’s streaming service provider, Granicus. The city does not pay for that module, Kirkpatrick said, or the one that enables streaming to other mobile devices.

Baldwin and Gaylord directed Kirkpatrick to ask various commissions and boards who might be interested in relocating their meetings to make use of the equipment, obtain a cost estimate from Granicus for other online and mobile device services and find out if the $25,000 is even feasible in this budget year.

“I think it’s going to ultimately be a comprehensive solution trying to tie these all together,” Gaylord said.

 

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