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Council bill would put members on camera

Vacca wants to tape board meets

Bronx Times

Smile, you’re on citycam.

That’s what Councilman Jimmy Vacca, new chairman of the City Council Technology Committee, has proposed in a bill that would have all full meetings of local community boards made available for broadcasting.

If the bill is passed with its current language, each board would be required to “record its public meetings in a digital and video format.”

In addition, the board meetings would be webcast live, when practicable, and then be made available on the city’s or community board’s website within three days.

When Vacca was Community Board 10 district manager and cable television first appeared in the east Bronx 30 years ago, he thought that it would become a vehicle for broadcasting both community and school board meetings – which did not happen, the councilman said.

“Now that I am head of the technology committee, I thought it would be a good idea to do webcasting of community board meetings finally,” he said. “They are the nearest level of government to people. They are really little City Halls at work, and I think it would be a good way to encourage more community involvement and more knowledge in the community of what is going on.”

Vacca acknowledged that there are still issues to be dealt with, including technology, equipment, logistics and cost. Those issues were discussed at a Feb. 24 technology committee meeting.

The councilman pointed out that City Council meetings are currently broadcast on Crosswalks Channel 74, and are also webcast. In many suburban communities, town meetings are also broadcast, he said.

He said he wanted to get a discussion started with community board leadership and city agencies to look into all aspects of webcasts.

On the local level, both chairmen of Community Boards 10 and 11 seemed to support the concept of webcasting or broadcasting CB meetings, but were concerned about details.

“Ideally, if it could work, fine,” said Board 11 chair Anthony Vitaliano. “But to make it work, there would be a lot of money and personnel involved.”

Vitaliano said that he was wondering if there would be a dedicated technician that would respond to meetings, with the board’s budget already tight to be able to hire an additional staffer for recording meetings.

Similarly, CB 10 chairman John Marano said while he felt that it was a good idea, it was just not that plain and simple.

His board’s budget is just over $200,000, he noted, with community boards not having as much leeway in terms of resources as larger city agencies. CB 10 has just three full time employees and has to pay rent and other expenses.

Before the bill is placed up for a vote, Marano feels that a business plan needs to created by a consultant, and that bids should be taken so that the city government can figure out how much all of Vacca’s proposal will cost.

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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