March 14, 2010

More sunshine for Spearfish, too?

Beset by a myriad of problems, not the least of which was the recent attempted skewering of Councilman Sam Kookier, the Rapid City Council has made a step toward redemption.

Beginning tomorrow, according to the Rapid City Journal, a variety of council-related meetings will be streamed lived on the Internet. Importantly, these sessions of the Planning Commission, Public Works Committee, Legal & Finance Committee – as well as the regular Rapid City Council meetings themselves – will all be archived for citizens to access.

Not only will the meetings be available to watch, there’ll also be a variety of important documents ranging from meeting agendas to supporting documents previously available only to folks who actually attend meetings or specially request them.

It’s a nice step forward in civic responsibility, and the Rapid City Council – which has taken a lot of justifiable criticism of late – deserves a pat on the back for taking this most welcome and appropriate step.

The Spearfish City Council should pay attention and follow suit.

Last summer, Black Hills Monitor advocated a similar move for Spearfish, but received a cordial rebuff. City Administrator Greg Sund, who has since left his post, said “there doesn’t seem to be majority interest among the Spearfish City Council to adopt this technology,” perceiving that our interest was simply in seeing cable television coverage of council meetings.

The City of Spearfish – a few years ago – made some really bad deals regarding cable television franchises. As those franchises with MidContinent Communications and Knology are renewed down the road, the city should be tougher negotiators, enabling an open government arrangement similar to those enjoyed by Pierre citizens. Franchise fees fund their Oahe TV operation, which covers city council and school board meetings and provides comprehensive Internet archives of those sessions.

We’re not sure that the Black Hills Pioneer on-line video initiatives spearheaded by former publisher Stewart Huntington include coverage of Spearfish council meetings. We've seen his folks covering legislative crackerbarrels at Black Hills State University, and that’s a good thing.

Whether it’s done by the private sector or the Spearfish City Council, video streaming and archiving of city council and related open meetings conducted by city government should be pursued. With all the disenchantment over government – particularly at the national level – our city fathers should be in the lead to help get more citizens involved in local government.

Our Spearfish City Council would be delivering one of the most valuable of city services: open and more accessible government.

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