Government

Council, Residents Divided Over Benefits of Broadcasting Meetings

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RARITAN, NJ - Raritan Borough Councilman James Foohey is continuing to investigate pricing for televising the meetings despite mixed feelings from residents and the council.

Foohey initially brought up the idea of televising council meetings during his 2014 campaign, and, after the January reorganization, began to look at the possibility of making it a reality.

Basically, Foohey said, the borough would need to buy a camera and tripod to begin moving forward, costing maybe $3,500.

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“We have a connection to cable already,” he said, noting that they would need to have Cablevision and Verizon come in to the municipal building to make sure the cables still work and to install any new ones needed.

“I spoke to Cablevision, and they would send out a team to check,” he said. “I have to talk to Fios.”

Foohey said he spoke to representatives in Somerville, who have their own actual channel for Somerville news and meetings, but Raritan does not need to move forward with all of that.

In addition, Foohey said, they could put the recorded meetings on DVD and rebroadcast them at a later time, or upload them to the website so people could watch whenever they want.

For the website, however, they would have to post the video to a third party site and link to it from the website because the current website does not allow for posted videos.

Foohey said he prefers to do the meetings themselves with a live broadcast.

“I prefer a live broadcast because it keeps people civil,” he said. “People behave better if they are on TV.”

“I think a part of the problem is we don’t get enough information out to residents,” he added. “You can’t compare reading the minutes online to seeing the meeting on TV.”

Maybe, Foohey said, they could have a student from the Bridgewater-Raritan High School working the camera during the meetings.

The council agreed to allow Foohey to pursue the costs and regulations for moving forward despite mixed reactions.

Councilman Paul Giraldi said he is totally against it.

“I think it is personally a waste of time and money, and I don’t think it will do much for Raritan,” he said. “If people are not going to come down to the meeting, they are not going to watch it on TV.”

Council president Greg Lobell said he believes they need to see what the costs would be before moving forward.

Residents at the meeting also had mixed feelings about broadcasting the meetings.

Raritan resident Gerry Cicero said she is all for broadcasting them.

“I think meetings being televised will show residents how people act,” she said.

Other residents said they were concerned that people would be more reluctant to speak if they know they are being filmed. They said they are comfortable making their voices heard and speaking their minds if there are no cameras.

Resident Tom Brown said he believes the borough needs to be more technology oriented.

“We are in the minority not televising our meetings,” he said. “I think we need to get into the 21st century.”

Foohey will continue gathering information about costs, but no decisions have been made at this time.

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