Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lights, camera, council

Live from downtown Saratoga Springs, it’s the City Council Show! Starring the people’s matronly matriarch, the politician that can make every meeting seem like a special ed class, introducing Mayor Valerie Keehn! Give a round of applause for her co-star, the commissioner so entrenched he predates most photos in the Bolster Collection, Public Works fixture Tom McTygue. Also, a special guest appearance by the hugable blowhard we all love to dodge, ladies and gentlemen give hand for Daaaaaavid Bronner.

And now, without further adieu, heeeeeere’s Valerie.

“Thank you, thank you, you’re too kind,” says Keehn, taking an imaginary swing of a golf club. “But first, I’d like say those of you at home can now watch the city council meetings live.”

The city council took a light years’ leap into the future last month by creating a live Web cast of their meetings. Anyone with a high speed Internet connection and a functional computer can now log onto the city’s Web site and follow a few mind-numbingly simple instructions to watch the commissioners duke it out live from the comfort of their own home.

Having the council meetings simulcast online is a gargantuan improvement for the city and one that will undoubtedly open the doors of government to a new segment of people. Previously, the live audio feed of these meetings was only available on Time Warner’s cable access channel. The service was almost wholly useless to anyone with an untrained ear, as the cacophony of commissioner-bickering usually precluded the ability to discern who was saying what, if anything at all.

The added video-feed –albeit a quality that harkens of a certain shaky filmmakers work –paints a clear picture of the chaotic environment often enveloping the city’s bi-monthly business meetings. Take for example the spirited exchange by McTygue and Bronner from last months’ session. And just think: this service is free.

Or at least mostly free. After the city invested more than $79,000 into their Web site last year, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and outgoing Finance Commissioner Matt McCabe decided the finished product needed a bit more tweaking. They discussed investing up to an additional $9,000 into buying the improvements needed to Webcast the meetings; a suggestion that was initially balked at in the annals of i-Saratoga.

However, now that these often-hollow promises have come to fruition, the city’s investment seems like a very sensible one. Both Franck and McCabe should be commended for their efforts. In today’s go-go society, where many no longer work the typical nine-to-five shift, it’s often difficult to attend city council sessions. Compounding this is the relative small amount of coverage coming from these meetings. This is not to rag on the reporters covering them, but to understand that they sometimes don’t have the time or space to write about all that is newsworthy.

On a side note, Spa City reporters beware. This advancement has thrust your job security toward the precarious side of the employment spectrum. Editors of Pasadena Now, a Metroland-esque online zine, decided in May to hire English-speaking writers from India to cover Pasadena City Council meetings. Because the meetings are broadcast live online, the editor figured he could save the cost of hiring an American reporter. While the move was resoundingly criticized among journalism circles, it’s a philosophy one could easily envision the money misers at the Journal Register Company embracing.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great news! Now Scott Johnson can catch up on all the council meetings since he never ever attended any meetings or had any comment about any thing at all going on down there. Now that Jasper pointed and said you are our candidate you are stuck with it! If you work real hard we will let you in on our development plans! More Money! All those Val Keehn signs that your people have been stealing on a nightly basis may come back to haunt you though. It is not hard to figure out why her signs are disappearing but Scirocco signs along with Veitch and Ivens signs are remaining on these same properties.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio,

I'm wondering if there are plans to archive the City Council meetings on the City's website. This would make the meetings more accessible to more people who might have something else going on during that timeslot (eg, spending time with kids, moonlighting to afford a huge sub-prime mortgage, watching "Law & Order" reruns, etc.).

Elsewhere, I've written about the need for coordination between the video recording and the transcripts (which are currently found on the website). This is vital, since only through a searchable video library will sound longitudinal research be facilitated on issues that span multiple meetings, or will viewers be able to observe facial expressions during a certain snippet of a tirade or oration without watching the entire "show."

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm willing to pay a few bucks, even. after all, is there a better show than this drama-dy?

now here's a good way to pay for Kim's Kastle! pay per view!

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Archives, folks:

http://www.saratoga-springs.org/docs/bpwebsite.asp

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe its me, but I've tried to access the archived video footage on three different computers and it doesnt seem to work. Anyone else have this problem

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The webcast archive works for me using Windows Media Player v9 on a W2K machine. Still cannot see facial expressions though.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I have had downloading problems as well, mainly on the popular clips that are referenced within this forum. I wonder what is the bandwidth of ISP hosting the site.

2:54 PM  

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