A discussion on whether or not to broadcast the Spokane Valley City Council meetings received a lukewarm reception Tuesday, with some Council members strongly in favor of it and others saying it wasn’t a bad idea, but the city cannot afford it. In the end no decision was made, but the Council did agree to discuss the issue again at a later date.
Currently the Spokane Valley Business Association is paying to have the meetings taped and then broadcast on Comcast Channel 14 the following Monday. The group has said it will only do that through June.
Greg Bingaman, the city’s IT specialist, presented three options, all of which included a website with video on demand so anyone could watch the meetings at any time. The first option is what the SVBA is doing now, with a one time equipment cost of $3,050 and an annual cost of $45,600. The second option would include real time production with a DVD of the meetings available immediately. The estimated startup cost is $13,050 with an annual cost of $40,600.
“You have a reduction in labor cost,” Bingaman said. “There is no post editing. It could air immediately after the meeting.”
The third option is live broadcast with a recording so the meeting can later be seen on the Web. The startup cost is expected to be $28,050 and the annual cost $40,600.
Mayor Tom Towey asked if people would be able to skip to a certain part of a meeting they were interested in if the meeting is viewed on the internet. “Most definitely,” Bingaman said. Each video would have the beginning of the discussion of each agenda item bookmarked so people could easily find what they want.
Councilman Dean Grafos questioned why the first option was more expensive than what the SVBA is currently paying. Councilman Bill Gothmann, who was involved in setting up the agreement between SVBA and Community Minded Television, said the SVBA rate is lower because the business group originally asked to broadcast one hour of the meeting instead of the entire meeting. The cost was just an estimate based on that single hour, he said. “It’s a very informal arrangement,” he said. “Everyone recognizes it’s a temporary arrangement.”
Community Minded TV is a nonprofit organization and if the city wants a long-term agreement for the full length meetings they should pay a fair price, he said.
Councilwoman Rose Dempsey and Gothmann spoke in favor of broadcasting the Council meetings, but councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she would feel more comfortable if the Council waited to make a decision until after a budget retreat scheduled for July. “I don’t have a problem with broadcasting,” she said. “I do feel that we haven’t solidified our budget.”
Gothmann pointed out that Spokane Valley is largest city in the state that does not broadcast its meetings. “To me it’s the cost of doing business,” he said. “Doing business means you are open.”
Councilman Bob McCaslin said he was not in favor of making a decision now. “If we have declining revenue, I don’t see why we’re sitting here talking about spending more money. I would be opposed to any expenditure whatsoever.”
In other business, the Council approved an ordinance with numerous Comprehensive Plan amendments and an ordinance amending the city’s zoning map, but not without some discussion. In previous meetings some Council members had objected to the text amendments requested by city staff that were generic policy statements such as supporting recycling and water conservation. Such language matches state and federal policies and makes it easier to get grants, staff said. On Tuesday staff presented a report giving the reason behind each new line of text proposed.
Towey said he appreciated the extra work. “There is a lot of time that goes into one sentence,” he said. “It gives us a better idea of why things were done.”
Grafos said he was concerned with the amount of staff time spent on the text amendments. “I think it’s all redundant,” he said. “I think it’s all a waste of tax dollars and staff time.”
Grassel said she agreed with Grafos, but she joined the majority in passing the ordinance approving the amendments. Grafos gave the only no vote.