2015-06-11 / Opinion

City Council Heads Back Online

EDITORIAL

As we lamented the loss in December of online video access to Newport City Council meetings provided for the previous five years by The Newport Record, so we applaud the news that in just a matter of weeks council sessions will again be available via this medium on the city’s website.

ClerkBase, already a city vendor providing online access to the minutes of council sessions, will soon be providing live online streaming of those meetings. That was assured on April 8 when the council unanimously approved a one-year deal with Cranston-based ClerkBase. Under that agreement, the city will pay the vendor $6,000 in annual charges and $2,495 in one-time fees.

For a lot of reasons, we think that’s money well spent.

For one thing, not everyone in Newport who would like to attend council meetings can get there in person, especially on cold and blustery winter evenings. These meetings, currently held at the Pell Elementary School because of access limitations at City Hall, need to be available to all citizens, regardless of their mobility.

Which means that ClerkBase’s online program should maximize overall public access to the City Council and enable anyone to view the meetings without leaving the comfort of home.

That’s simply called good government and the sooner it resumes the better.

What do we get for our money? The agreement with ClerkBase will include live streaming of City Council meetings, immediate Internet updates, video archives, video linked to the agenda and minutes, and 200 hours of non-meeting content.

A nice feature of the ClerkBase program will be the ability of online viewers to scroll directly to specific council actions without having to watch what they may have no interest in watching.

None of this is meant to denigrate the Cox Cable telecasts or the effort made by the Newport Public Library to make DVDs of council meetings available to its patrons. We believe there’s no such thing as too much open government.

We are told by Jay Rosenfield, ClerkBase president, that the public should be able to watch streaming video of souncil meetings in “just a matter of weeks.” ClerkBase, which uses the slogan “transparency solutions for government,” seems to be no newcomer to this and other forms of electronic government access. According to the company’s website, it has 86 municipal contracts around the country, including Newport, Middletown and Jamestown among its 15 Rhode Island clients.

So, we say, bring it on. There’s no time to lose.

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