By: Sharon Aron Baron
Residents in the City of Tamarac now get to see what is going on in city hall, and they don’t have to leave their homes to find out.
Call it the final step in “transparency” in local government.
After over a year of persuading the city to air their meetings in Tamarac Talk and at city hall, the Mayor and Commissioners voted in September to approve of live streaming their workshop and commission meetings.
The good news is that you don’t have to watch the meetings live. Residents can watch them days or even months later.
Just this month, the city went “live” using a Swagit Productions service, which, according to Information Technology Director Levent Sucuoglu, eliminates the need for city staff to index and time-stamp video content. Swagit Productions works with the agenda. While the workshop or commission meetings are in process, they break the video segment up to correlate with the agenda. Therefore, when a resident goes to the city website, they can watch the exact section of the meeting they would like to see instead of wading through hours of video.
Broadcasting or streaming meetings is nothing new or different. Over 30 cities in Broward County, and 19 of them already broadcast their meetings either on cable or online.
The cost will be a $21,000 one-time charge for broadcasting equipment, and each year, there will be a $9,000 annual fee to Swagit for the ongoing costs for broadcasting, storage, and indexing.
During city commission meetings, two cameras are set at fixed positions, so there will be no close-ups during proclamations or awards.
Last Wednesday, the parents of the Tamarac Cougars piled into city hall to discuss issues regarding their lease with the city, probably had no idea that their public remarks would be broadcast. Hopefully, with the recording of their comments, others will see their plight, and more people may become more familiar with our sports teams and the issues they are facing.
Also, on Wednesday, Commissioner Harry Dressler made a poignant speech asking Commissioner Patte Atkins-Grad to step down. Just last month, this would never have been seen outside of a meeting. Now his speech can be viewed by people in Tamarac and other cities.
While the system is very new, it is far from perfect, so residents should ask the Informations Technology Department questions.
“There will be a few tweaks here and there,” Sucuoglu said. “Since everything is still new, cameras may be added in the future so that residents can see better, but we must take baby steps to get there.”