Mad that you missed the latest shouting match at an Oak Park village board meeting? Want to watch deliberations on the next controversial condo tower but don't have cable TV? Well, village hall wants to help you get your fix in 2011.
For years, Oak Park has been thinking about broadcasting its board of trustees meetings on the Web, said David Powers, director of communications. But it wasn't until recently that they started pursuing the idea, as technology improved and costs kept going down.
Starting in January or February, residents will be able to punch up www.oak-park.us on their computer and watch the weekly Monday meetings (sometimes Thursday, none in December, April and August), live from the comfort of their desktop.
"It's about transparency and access to what government is doing," Powers said. "You'll be able to watch the village board conduct business; now you either have to have cable or come here to do it. I think it's going to increase accessibility dramatically."
Board meetings are currently broadcast on Oak Park's in-house station, VOP-TV Channel 6, but that's only available to people with cable. Surveys by Comcast a few years ago indicated that only about 52 percent of residents have cable, leaving almost half the community unable to watch board meetings, according to Powers.
Oak Park signed a contract Dec. 8 with San Francisco-based Granicus, the only company that showed interest in streaming video on the village's website. Granicus is one of the leaders in the industry, said Powers. They also provide the service to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The village is paying a one-time fee of $3,700 to have the service set up, along with a monthly fee of $840.
Meetings can sometimes run long, so the tapings will be indexed, giving board watchers the ability to click on any agenda item and skip to the point in the recording that interests them. The meetings will be streamed live, but Powers expects it may take a day or two to index the recordings. And from the first day forward, each recording will remain on the village website indefinitely.
"It's going to be a really good tool for anyone who wants to follow the village board," Powers said.
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