Leelanau County Board Meetings Coming to Video

The Traverse City Ticker reports that meetings of the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners will be video-recorded beginning this summer:

Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik says equipment has been ordered and will be installed this summer to allow recordings. “I’m hoping we’ll start in July,” he says. The move comes after county commissioners last month approved a $5,455 contract with BIS Digital to purchase the recording hardware and software. Leelanau County currently records the audio of its commission meetings and posts those recordings on its website, but does not offer visual recordings.

Commissioners discussed options to pay extra to allow the meetings to be live-streamed, and/or to work with an agency like Traverse Area Community Media (formerly UpNorth Media) to televise the meetings, but ultimately decided to buy the equipment and manage recordings in-house. The meetings won’t be televised or live-streamed, therefore, but the video recordings will be posted on the county’s website within 24 hours. (we’re guessing on this page)

The proposal narrowly passed with a 4-3 vote, with some commissioners saying the move was a waste of money and would only appeal to a limited audience. “We did do video-conferencing…at one point and never had any real feedback,” said Commissioner Melinda Lautner. “There’s always a chance that you’re going to have showboating or posturing for the camera.” Chair William Bunek also said he didn’t see the point of recordings, saying that just because the technology existed and other municipalities used it, didn’t mean Leelanau County needed to. Commissioner Debra Rushton agreed.

“I’ve had absolutely zero of my constituents over the last eight years ask to have us videotape our meetings,” she said. “I don’t hear the outcry from the general public. I myself feel like it could be a distraction. I could see grandstanding from those who find themselves on camera.”

But Commissioners Tony Ansorge, Ty Wessell, Patricia Soutas-Little, and Carolyn Rentenbach all supported moving to video. Ansorge noted the same amount of work was involved for county staff to either audio-record or video-record meetings, saying it was “worth the money to allow those individuals who aren’t able to attend to see and hear the board of commissioners in action.” Agreed Wessell: “It’s a way of communicating with the public that we want you to be informed, we want you to be involved, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure you understand why we’re making the decisions we’re making.” Soutas-Little said “times have changed” since Leelanau County last televised its meetings, and that now “many people are very comfortable going online.” Rentenbach also said more information was available to the public in video recordings than audio recordings. “I think it adds a level of transparency that will be beneficial to people,” she said. “It’s interesting to see who’s distracted, who’s bored, and who’s participating in a meeting.”

Read more at the Ticker & let us know what you think in the comments.