The Prairie Village City Council on Monday narrowly rejected a plan to live-stream its meetings online and make them available for later viewing.
The measure failed 5-7 after a majority of council members said they didn’t think there was enough demand from residents wanting to watch the meetings to support the $8,000 price tag. However, they agreed later to revisit the proposal next month.
Councilwoman Serena Schermoly, who pushed the idea, has provided live-stream meetings of the council and the city planning commission online since August, making the videos available for later viewing through her Facebook page and her YouTube channel.
Schermoly provided data showing that the council videos have generated 5,685 views since August and the planning commission videos an additional 1,352.
The proposal before the council was for the city to take over live streaming and archiving the meetings going forward. It also would have provided up to $5,000 to buy a camera and other equipment and up to $3,000 to cover the costs of either putting the videos online and archiving them or paying a third-party live-streaming service to do it.
In Johnson County, only city councils in Mission, Olathe and De Soto currently live stream their meetings to the public. Bonner Springs and Gardner post a video recording of their meetings after they are over, and Leawood provides copies of recorded meetings for a fee.
Proponents of the plan said making the videos available to the public either live or recorded would improve transparency and let Prairie Village residents who couldn’t come to City Hall keep up with their city government.
“It’s our job to proactively make it easy to communicate with them,” said Councilman Eric Mikkelson. “This is a very efficient way to potentially reach thousands and thousands of people with the good work we’re doing on their behalf.”
But other council members downplayed Schermoly’s statistics, saying it was unclear how many people actually watched the meetings, because one person could view a meeting numerous times. They also said there were few obstacles to residents attending city meetings and that watching a meeting was not the same as actually participating in city government.
“I’m not willing to roll $8,000 just to see a test balloon,” said Councilman Dan Runion. “I don’t think 5,700 views over seven and a half months is a clamoring from citizens.”
Runion was joined in voting against live streaming meetings by council members Ted Odell, Terrence Gallagher, Brooke Morehead, Andrew Wang, Ashley Weaver and Steve Noll. Mikkelson, Schermoly, Jori Nelson, Sheila Myers and Courtney McFadden voted for it.
The idea is not completely dead, however. Later in the meeting, Mikkelson successfully lobbied the council to bring the issue back in June, which he said would give council members more time to gauge public demand for live streaming and to consider a cheaper system of up to $3,500.
Schermoly said she would be willing to donate a camera that could be installed in the council chamber to further reduce the cost.
Prairie Village resident Tucker Poling said he thought broadcasting meetings was a good idea as he himself sometimes has trouble attending but still wants to know what the council is doing.
“Even if only 50 people a night are watching, or even 10 people are watching, that would double the participation,” Poling said in largely empty chamber. “The threshold for participation is information.”
In other business:
▪ The council voted 10-2 to approve a series of traffic calming measures on Tomahawk Road between Roe Avenue and Nall Avenue. The city plans to install three traffic diverter islands at Ash and Birch streets as well as at Nall and lower the speed limit along the stretch of road from 30 mph to 25.
Resident Matt Vaughn, who lives on Ash Street, told the council that he routinely makes his two sons come in the house in the late afternoon because of the amount of rush hour traffic cutting through his neighborhood.
“Our residents have asked you to help us reduce the traffic, reduce the speeds and make it safer,” Vaughn said.
The project is expected to cost around $40,000.
▪ Council members also voted unanimously to spend an additional $38,000 for improvements to Windsor Park, 7200 Windsor St., including a new picnic shelter, trail and swing set. Indigo Design will receive $17,680 for design work on the park.
David Twiddy: email@example.com