Evanston aldermen Monday voted not to join Glenview and other communities in providing streaming video of local government meetings over the Internet

Without taking a look at the service in other communities because a staff member’s computer broke – foiling a scheduled demonstration — the aldermen decided that a startup cost of $14,000, plus an ongoing expense of $1,000 per month was too rich for the city’s budget.

“To add another $26,000 is too expensive,” Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said, a sentiment that was seconded by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward.

The aldermen did vote at the Rules Committee meeting to begin televising Plan Commission meetings on the local cable access channel, at an added cost of about $200 per meeting for an employee to run the cameras. City Manager Julia Carroll said those broadcasts could start as soon as the commission’s January meeting.

The vendor used by Glenview to provide the streaming media service, Granicus, Inc. of San Francisco, says it provides the service to more than 200 municipalities around the country, mostly on the west coast.

Granicus says the streaming media solution lets residents watch public meetings at their own convenience, rather than when they happen to be broadcast on cable access. Indexing software also lets residents view just the agenda items that interest them, rather than having to watch an entire meeting.

The company claims that communities save money by reducing staff time devoted to filling citizen requests for paper records of meetings.

A recent survey by the Center for Digital Government concludes that Sun Belt cities tend to be home to some of the most “technologically astute” municipal governments in the country. No city in Illinois was listed among the 49 communities cited in that report.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, suggested that the city might be able to create a new revenue stream by selling ads on the city’s cable access channel. He said it would help local political candidates get their message out and might be used for local businesses as well.

The city manager said she’d investigate that possibility.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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