Internet push to televise commission meetings again

Melissa Strother, candidate for Ward II commissioner says she will push to put meetings back on TV if elected / Ashley Knight

There was a time when folks in Albany could switch on their TV's and stay connected to what was going on in local government.

"Well, years ago the commission felt like it was best to make it easier to access what was going on in the commissions and televise the fourth Tuesday meetings, which are the official meetings where decisions are actually made," says Assistant City Manager Wes Smith.

However, those days came to an end in the late 90's.

"People would come, especially at election time and get on the agenda and give speeches that were unnecessary and the council itself would play to the camera. It kind of stifled any kind of discussion of what we might want, you can't speculate about anything while you're on camera, you have to be sure," says former Mayor Tommy Coleman.

But there is a movement on the internet for the televised meetings to be brought back. 29 people in Albany have signed a petition to have televised access to all open meetings. One signer says transparency is a necessary method to encourage leaders to act in an ethical manner, while another says full access is essential for a healthy democratic society.

The commission meeting room is actually built to suit those needs. There are cameras and a control room built to control the audio and video. And Smith says it's always a possibility they could return to those televised meetings-it would just be costly.

"The old equipment in there is just antiquated, but it would probably be sixty to seventy thousand dollars to re-equip the room."

Dougherty County School Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree says it might be a good idea to televise school board meetings as well.

"For some people, they can't get involved. It could be based on a handicap; they may not be able to come down to a board meeting. So therefore, they're right there on television," says Dr. Murfree.

And while it is not currently a topic of discussion among city officials, there has been mention of bringing it back in Melissa Strother's campaign for ward two commissioner.

You can view the online petition by clicking here.