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Editorial: Committee meetings should be on WRAC

The city of Willmar has long taped and broadcast the City Council meetings on the WRAC public access television system. Now the city is considering doing the same with council committee meetings.

This is a good idea and it is time for the city to take another step toward more open government.

Mayor Frank Yanish recently asked the City Council to consider recording and broadcasting committee meetings. He raised the idea of taping and broadcasting council committee meetings during the 2010 mayoral race.

Council member Jim Dokken has long advocated recording and broadcasting of the council committee meetings.

Kudos go to Yanish and Dokken for requesting the public showing of these committee meetings.

The Willmar City Council has the following committees: Finance, Public Works/Safety, Labor Relations and Community Development. The committees all meet in the City Office Building conference room, where there is no camera equipment.

The committees could easily meet at the Municipal Utilities Building where the council currently meets twice a month. The room is permanently equipped with cameras and control equipment to tape the meetings.

The reality is the city decisions are often discussed in detail and recommendations forged during these committee meetings. The recommendations are later presented at a council meeting for consideration.

Some council members do not support the taping of council committee meetings. There are concerns about the taping changing the committee meetings. Some are concerned about the cost of the taping.

These are not viable concerns.

Public broadcasting of council committee meetings would not be a bad thing. It would help citizens view the committees' discussion and recommendation decisions. It would certainly help provide more transparency in city government.

The cost would not be significant to city government. The estimated cost is $60 per meeting for WRAC staff time. However, the WRAC is funded from franchise fees paid by the city's cable communications providers, not by the city's budget.

Bring a little sunlight of transparency to council committee meetings by tape-delay broadcasts would be a positive step. Discussion at committee meeting should nota be hidden by not broadcasting the discussion.

The City Council should start broadcasting taped committee meetings in an effort to keep citizens informed.