The long-discussed televising of Spokane Valley City Council meetings will begin next week thanks to some private donations. Community Minded TV (Comcast Channel 14) will begin taping the meetings on Tuesday, which will then air the following Monday at 7:30 p.m.
The Spokane Valley Business Association has decided to raise money to pay for up to six months of meetings, said SVBA treasurer Dick Behm. The SVBA board of directors held a special telephone vote this week to approve the plan, Behm said.
The meetings will air nearly a week after they are taped to allow time to edit together feed from two different cameras.
The collaboration was announced by council member Bill Gothmann, who has long advocated airing the council meetings on cable along with former mayor Rich Munson.
“I am an ardent supporter,” he said. “We were the two people pushing very hard for it.”
Gothmann believes televising the meetings must be done if the council is to be open about its decisions.
“It’s something we should have been doing a long time ago. It turns out that we’re the largest city in the state that doesn’t broadcast the council meetings.”
Behm has attended nearly every city council meeting since the city incorporated.
“I was appointed an honorary city council person,” he said. “The nice thing about that is you don’t have to run for re-election and you can’t be fired.”
After sitting in the public seats for years, Behm is in favor of airing the meetings. “I’ve always thought it was a good idea,” Behm said. “People won’t have an excuse for not knowing what’s going on.”
The city council as a whole has not approved the plan to record the meetings and it doesn’t need to, Gothmann said. “Anyone can come in and tape the council meeting,” he said. “It’s an open meeting. It’s being taped from that point of view.”
Previous discussions by the council about broadcasting meetings usually got hung up on the cost of the equipment and staffing. This arrangement will cost about $1,300 a month, Behm said, and he’s received enough pledges so far to pay for the first month.
Gothmann is so strongly in favor of the effort that he’s donated some of his own money to the cause, though he refuses to say how much.
The agreement is largely due to the work of Ian Robertson, a longtime member of the city’s planning commission and briefly an appointed council member before losing his seat to Dean Grafos. Robertson had served on Community Minded TV’s board and was familiar with the organization’s efforts to air locally produced videos. He has also been a supporter of recording the council meetings.
“He’s no longer on the council so he’s not bound by anything the council does,” Gothmann said. “He put it together.”
Behm is still searching for additional donations to continue the funding for a few months. After that he is hoping the new city council will agree to continue televising the meetings on its own.
“We didn’t want to take an indefinite period of responsibility,” he said. “Somebody had to make the first move.”