Our View: City transparency policy is right step forward

January 11, 2019
The Rochester City Council began its 2019 on Monday with a commitment to present live video of all its meetings over the Internet.

The new plan to make Rochester city government more transparent is appropriate — and probably overdue.

In a city where so much revolves around technology, it always seemed odd to us that efforts to record and post online videos of every government meeting were lagging. It seemed even more odd in 2017 when then-Mayor Ardell Brede vetoed a proposal to spend $25,000 on equipment that would allow the city council’s committee of the whole meetings to be recorded.

That’s all in the past now. On Monday, the council approved a multi-point policy to make city government as transparent and accessible as possible.

For starters, all meetings of the city council and committees are to be recorded, live-streamed and archived. Citizens now have more opportunities to watch their municipal government in action.

In addition, all meetings of city boards and commissions will be recorded and archived.

And poor-quality recordings will not be acceptable. The policy states that “All recording quality shall be at a level that a person watching shall be able to interpret and discern all speakers and materials.”

That’s all fine and good, although there are some wrinkles to iron out. We imagine training operators for the recording systems could take some time. What happens when two or three city meetings are taking place at the same time? Or when meetings are scattered across various buildings? Those are all solvable issues, but it might take some time to work out all the logistics.

Also not to be overlooked in the new policy is the requirement that all meetings be held in handicapped-accessible rooms, and that meetings be held in rooms large enough to provide adequate seating for the public. This was approved earlier, but delayed until this month at the request of an outgoing council member.

However, Monday’s installation of new council members and a new mayor was the ideal time to launch this attempt to make sure all of us have a window into our city government.

“We must provide a more transparent, inclusive and cohesive city government,” said newly sworn-in Mayor Kim Norton.

That, in turn, can only lead to more interest in government, and better informed citizens.

This policy is the right step and the right time, and we applaud its adoption.

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