OLEAN, NY – Future Olean town council meetings may be livestreamed to promote accessibility and transparency for citizens.
Ward 3 Alderman and Common Council President Paul Gonzalez proposed the idea at the Nov. 7 City Operations Committee meeting.
Gonzalez explained that many members of the community have commented that access to city council meetings is limited. Currently, the public can either attend meetings in person or watch meetings when they air on Spectrum.
“There’s people that can’t attend because they work at night and there’s people that can’t watch because they have Direct TV or because they are cord cutters and don’t have cable at all,” Gonzalez said. “Now once the meeting airs on public access, unless you tape it in your home, it’s gone and the only record you’ll have of it from then on are the minutes that are kept by the council secretary.”
Gonzalez doesn’t want the meetings to disappear after they are streamed, though.
“One of the things I’ve wanted to explore is the possibility of the city investing in the equipment and infrastructure to start being able to not only live stream our council meetings, but archive them online as well so you can go back and watch them in their entirety.”
Ward 4 Alderman Kevin Dougherty said he fully supports the idea of livestreaming council meetings.
“It brings the people closer to who they are voting for,” Dougherty said. “It gives people insight on how we make decisions.”
Plattsburgh, New York, has livestreamed its council, zoning board and planning board meetings since August 2016 and archived them on YouTube. Plattburgh’s Ward 4 Councilor Peter Ensel said that the livestreaming has been helpful to citizens of Plattsburgh.
“It really does help with transparency because people can see what people are saying. It’s not just a couple of select quotes from someone that appears in a newspaper or sound bite. They get to watch the whole meeting and all participants,” Ensel said.
The convenience of the livestream has also been a bonus.
“It’s extremely helpful during the winter months because it’s so cold, people don’t want to go out, but they still want to be informed,” Ensel said.
If the proposal is authorized by the council, the next step would be to conduct a bidding process to find a service provider.
“We go with the lowest responsible bidder and then the council would vote to accept the bid from whoever the vendor is,” Gonzalez said. “Ideally, we would want a vendor who could provide us with the entire outfit, the equipment, the installation, and some training and technical support.”
Olean, with a population smaller than Plattsburgh’s by about 6,000 people, would be the first city of its size in the area to livestream council meetings. Gonzalez said that adds value to the proposal.
“I’m not afraid of having Olean lead the way in these ideas,” Gonzalez said. “It’s important that Olean lead the way when it comes to new ideas, new technology, that we can implement into the city.”