City council edging closer to televised meetings

The Port Orchard City Council, under a new policy being drafted and considered by city officials, will move one step closer this week to becoming the final city in Kitsap County to televise council meetings.

The council made a request of city staff at the May 30 meeting to write a policy governing the televising of meetings on Bremerton-Kitsap Access Television (BKAT).

Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel said the policy will be submitted to the finance committee for the June 8 meeting and could be brought back before council at its June 12 meeting.

The city already had long-since purchased a camera and set aside $8,500 to pay for the effort, but the plan stalled when council members questioned how they could control what the public said during public comment periods.

There also was concern about “long-winded” council members who might use the opportunity to stump on specific issues.

“Council wanted to craft language around ourselves and the public,” Abel said. “This is a forum for conducting the city’s business, not about your election issues or private business.”

Abel said she expects the public comments portion of the meetings to be limited to three minutes, and the mayor will have the job of limiting comments from council or the public that might be deemed inappropriate.

Once the council approves the deal, cable television subscribers could expect to see a 1 percent increase in their franchise fees — to 5 percent — through their agreements with WAVE Cable to broadcast the meetings.

The mayor cited a phone survey that she and members of the Goldenrod Flower neighborhood conducted in April involving more than 250 homes. Of those, over 50 percent said they wouldn’t object to an increase in their cable bill to have access to televised meetings.

“I’m very excited, not just because we’re the last city to televise meetings,” Abel said. “Our citizens demand this kind of open, transparent access to their city government.”

Officials with BKAT will come in and set up the camera to ensure the best angles and sound. The city council already has been taping the meetings, making video tapes available to the public for $10.

The newly-televised meetings likely will air at least three times a week, including the first airing within a day or two after the actual council meeting.

The meetings could be shown up to 12 times a month, Abel said.

“Hopefully, we can get this done quickly,” said Councilman Fred Chang. “Part of my concern has been that we’re just not getting people involved. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to make these meetings entertaining, but we can make it more convenient for the public.”

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