More city government may be coming to a television near you.
In a 6-1 vote, the Brainerd City Council Monday approved televising all city council meetings, and televising other committee meetings at the determination of the city council.
Voting against the motion was council member Mary Koep, who thought the motion should be amended to state that the city council would ask Charter Communications, which airs the city council meetings, to televise all public meetings and to send the cable company a list of all city meetings. However, no amendment was offered.
Matt Taylor, who at the request of council member Bob Olson videotaped an Oct. 13 Safety and Public Works Committee to be shown on Charter cable Channel 8, said if the city council decided not to use its cameras to televise committee meetings he or someone else would still be videotaping them.
However, Taylor said he hoped the council would opt to televise all city meetings.
"For your protection and for (Brainerd residents) protection, I think it would be a tragedy since the city of Brainerd spent so much money on the equipment," said Taylor. "The only conceivable reason I think you wouldn't want it done is because you have something to hide, and I don't think that's the reason."
Olson said the only committee meetings not in the city council chambers, where the television cameras are mounted, were the Personnel and Finance Committee and the Brainerd Public Utilities Commission meetings. He said if Charter Communications personnel aren't available to run the cameras, City Engineer Jeff Hulsether could.
"It's not in the best public interest if we didn't make every effort as a council to televise these meetings," said Olson. Council member Gary Scheeler noted the meetings of the Parking Commission, the Library Board and the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission also weren't conducted in the city council chambers.
Council member Kelly Bevans said the original motion didn't preclude televising other committee meetings.
"This only gives us the opportunity to televise additional meetings, it doesn't say which ones," said Bevans.
In split votes, two other motions concerning televised meetings and offered by Olson also were approved.
Olson's first motion; that Bevans, as Personnel and Finance Committee chairman, and Scheeler, as Safety and Public Works Chairman, work with staffers to find a way to televise both committee meetings by Dec. 1, was approved by a 4-3 vote, with council members Olson, Koep, Bevans and Anne Nelson Fisher voting in favor of the motion.
A motion by Scheeler to table the issue was defeated by a 5-2 vote, with council members Olson, Koep, Fisher, Bevans and Council President Jim Dehen voting against.
In voting against Olson's motion, Dehen noted that none of the city's meetings are closed to the public and all are advertised. Dehen said committee meetings are only advisory committees and that the decision-making body is the city council.
"The final decision is made here. It's not made in those other meetings," said Dehen. "There's some truth to the old adage: Two things you don't want to watch made in this country are sausages and laws."
Olson's second motion, that the chairpersons of the Brainerd Economic Development Authority and the Planning Commission work with city staffers to find a way to televise both committees by their first meetings in January, was approved by a 4-3 vote, with council members Olson, Koep, Bevans and Fisher voting in favor.
Nesheim attempted to make a motion that the other committee meetings would be televised only if a majority of committee members agreed, but the motion died for lack of a second.
Nesheim, who earlier in the meeting expressed concern that people attending the committee meetings might not be comfortable in front of television cameras, also asked if committee members would be comfortable being on television. She said the city could lose potential candidates for the committee if the meetings are televised.
"I guess that's a choice they'll have to make if they want to serve on the committee," Olson said.
Fisher said council members shouldn't fear having people watch committee meetings.
"Think about how exciting C-SPAN is. Certainly people are more interested in what's affecting them locally," said Fisher. "They'll see it's (the committee meetings) no more mysterious than what's going on right now."
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