The Overland Park City Council considered broadcasting its meetings in 2011, then decided it was too expensive and the public didn’t care.
But, as Councilman Paul Lyons says, “The times are a-changing. People are interested in this now.”
Technology has changed with cheaper options, while public transparency and accountability are paramount, he said.
Lyons and other members of the Council’s finance committee directed the city’s information technology staff Wednesday to gear up for basic livestreaming of council meetings on the city’s YouTube channel. The program is expected to cost about $5,000 and could begin in a few months. It would be the first step to what could become a more comprehensive program.
The information technology staff will also explore a more robust system that includes archiving and indexing of meeting videos, although that could cost an estimated $120,000 or more per year in equipment and other expenses, plus additional staff time. If the city decides to pursue such a program with its existing agenda management vendor, it could be installed in a few months. If it opts for a broader bidding process to explore other vendors, that could take the rest of the year.
Many metro cities broadcast or live-stream their meetings, including the Kansas City Council; the Johnson County Commission; and the cities of Olathe, Mission and DeSoto. Prairie Village just started a livestreaming program. But Overland Park and Lenexa, two large Johnson County cities, have been holdouts, saying it wasn’t a high priority.
Lenexa spokeswoman Denise Rendina said Thursday that it’s still not on the radar in her city, and any policy change would have to come from the governing body.
But livestreaming became a topic of conversation in several recent Overland Park City Council races. Newly elected council member Logan Heley told the finance committee Wednesday night that he talked about this with residents as he campaigned door-to-door last fall.
“It’s become an expectation, especially with the younger generation,” Heley said, adding that it’s another tool to make it easier for the public to engage with city leaders.
Since he took office in early January, Heley has recruited high school students as volunteer technicians to livestream the council meetings, posted on Heley’s Facebook page. But the committee supported a basic city program to replace that volunteer effort.
City Councilman Richard Collins said, “If we’re serious about this, let’s do it right.”
Still, Collins worried about ongoing costs of storing the video and wanted more information before the city assumes that obligation. He also wanted to know how many people actually watch these livestreams. Committee Chairman Dave White asked for more research on the range of potential costs and on the legal requirements and implications of such a program.