Watch Your Government at Work in Your Boxers
October 31st, 2008

If you want to watch a video online of a cat opening a jar, that’s easy. A haunted Ouija Board? Not a problem. But if you want to watch the City Council hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to reduce poverty, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Councilmember Gale Brewer would like to change that. The Technology in Government Committee, which she chairs, held a hearing this week about a bill to offer live webcasts of all public meetings and archive them online.

The city developed a webcasting pilot six years ago, but Web video has developed increasingly farther since then. For example, live webstreaming is available for free to anybody with a digital camera and internet access (Brooklyn Heights Blog just used one such service to broadcast their debate between State Senate candidates Daniel Squadron and John Chromczak).

In fact, New York city is behind most other big cities on this front, as CityRoom pointed out.

Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, said in written testimony that webcasts are the “obvious next step” in the city’s efforts to use technology to promote accountability and transparency.

But she would also like to see that written testimony available on the council’s Web site.

After implementing webcasts of public meetings, she suggested, “providing copies of all relevant documents that will be discussed at meetings in [PDFs] on the website.”

Hearings for technology related issues – like the recent “white spaces” and small technology business sector hearings – usually result in a spattering of testimony posted online. But they are posted by those who gave the testimony. As such, only those who choose to post them are available, and even those are sprinkled around in various corners of the Web.

Brewer has said she supports posting testimony on the council Web site.

But webcasting and video archiving are the priority for most.

“Video records come alive in a way that a transcript simply does not,” said Joshua Breitbart from People’s Production House in written testimony, which was posted on his Web site. (He is also the technology columnist for Gotham Gazette.)

“While City Council hearings may never get the same audience as otters holding hands (about 12 million views at last count), this measure sends a message to all New Yorkers that there is important, relevant content for you online.”

By on October 31, 2008, 4:01 pm
In category: nextNY,Tech | Comments Off on Watch Your Government at Work in Your Boxers

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