Brainerd committee and commission meetings will not be televised.
In three motions Monday, the Brainerd City Council decided against televising the two standing committees of the city council -- the Personnel and Finance Committee and the Safety and Public Works Committee -- and the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority meetings.
At its Oct. 20 meeting, the council directed council member Kelly Bevans, who is Personnel and Finance Committee chair, and council member Gary Scheeler, who is Safety and Public Works chair, to work with city staffers to find a way to televise both committee meetings by Dec. 1.
A motion also was approved Oct. 20 to have the chairs of the Planning Commission and the Brainerd EDA meet with staffers to find a way to televise their meetings by Jan. 1.
On Monday, Scheeler made the motion to not televise either council subcommittee. Council member Mary Koep, who is a Safety and Public Works Committee member, said because of where the television equipment was located, within the city planner's office, using the equipment during office hours would get in the way of the work of city staffers.
Both Personnel and Finance and Safety and Public Works committees meet on the day of city council meetings. Occasionally Safety and Public Works starts before city hall closes at 5 p.m.
"I'm supportive of televising Safety and Public Works. I think the idea of televising committee meetings is good and beneficial for the public. For one thing there's a lot of discussion going on," said Koep. "I'm supportive, but in a practical sense we couldn't do it in this room before 5 p.m."
Council member Lucy Nesheim said the goal of the committee meeting was to make people who have business before the committee relaxed enough to give an honest view. She said televising the meeting makes people attending them uncomfortable.
Scheeler said people don't like reruns, referring to the fact that issues that come up before Safety and Public Works are addressed later the same day during the televised city council meeting.
For Personnel and Finance, which currently meets in a conference room below the council chambers, Bevans said several options were considered, but none was feasible for televising the committee meetings.
One option for the Personnel and Finance Committee would be to meet in the council chambers before the Safety and Public Works Committee, but Bevans noted that with Safety and Public Works sometimes meeting at 4 p.m., Personnel and Finance would have to start at an earlier time, such as at noon, making it difficult for city staffers, committee members and members of the public to attend.
Another option would be to meet on a different day before council meetings, but that would limit the amount of information the committee would have, said Bevans. He said holding the committee meetings on a day after city council meetings would make information redundant.
"It would be logistically difficult for it to happen," Bevans said of televising his committee's meetings.
The motion to continue the current practice of not televising meetings of the two standing committees was approved by a 5-2 vote, with council members Koep and Bob Olson voting against.
"It's letting the public down if we're using excuses that the (televising) machines aren't available. I can't buy that," said Olson. "It blows my mind that we're coming up with excuses to not televise meetings for the good of the public."
The motion to not televise the Planning Commission meetings, which take place after office hours, was approved by a 5-2 vote, with council member Koep and Olson voting against.
The motion to not televise EDA meetings, which take place during office hours, was approved by a 6-1 vote, with council member Olson voting against.
Koep said she would like to see the Planning Commission meetings televised because they are educational.
Olson said there has been resistance to televising meetings since the council approved installing the equipment in 2001. He said there was no excuse for not televising at least the Planning Commission meeting. He compared televising Brainerd committees to C-SPAN, which televises a number of federal committee meetings which people often watch. Council President Jim Dehen said people appearing on C-SPAN are professionals, whereas people appearing before Brainerd committees are not and could have concerns about appearing before cameras to discuss issues.
Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said the committee and commission meetings are open to the public. He invited anyone interested to come to city hall and watch them.
Scheeler said the pressure should be on other government agencies, specifically the Crow Wing County Board and the Brainerd School Board, to televise their meetings. He said city council members shouldn't feel guilty for not televising all city meetings.
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