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Override meeting should have been televised

September 1, 2011

This post was edited from its original form.

Disappointingly, the August 9 override meeting between the Walpole School Committee, Finance Committee, and the Walpole Board of Selectmen was not televised. I found this out recently when I tried to obtain a video of the meeting from Walpole Community Television.

The reason used by Selectmen to justify not televising the meeting was that the sheer number of people who would be involved – the seven members of the School Committee, the fifteen members of the Finance Committee, and the five members of the Board of Selectmen along with the Town Administrator, School Superintendent, and board secretaries – made televising the meeting impractical. The meeting attendees sat at tables on the floor of the Main Meeting Room, according to people who were there.

This meeting was a very important event, and involved extensive discussion, according to The Walpole Times reports, of the budget and of the given reasons for an override. Given the important issue being discussed, town officials should have done everything possible to televise it. Even just airing an audio feed of the meeting, without the visual, would have been reasonable.

Presented with an issue of space constraints in the meeting room, Selectmen should have said, “Okay, we don’t have enough space to adequately film everybody in the room, BUT because this is an important meeting and residents should be allowed to watch this on TV, HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS WORK?”

If one has that kind of attitude, they can make it work.

I am very upset that this meeting was not televised. This was a very important meeting on a very important issue.

Of course it was an open meeting, and I assume it was properly posted according to the state’s open meeting law. In theory, anybody could have attended the meeting in person. But many people had no idea such a meeting was even planned and people like myself assumed it would be televised and available to be viewed later on. There was no notice whatsoever that this meeting would not be televised. Purely for transparency’s sake, every meeting at Town Hall should be televised and I can’t figure out why other meeting rooms at Town Hall are not similarly outfitted with camera equipment or why camera equipment is not brought in. Perhaps the Board of Selectmen should enact a new policy stating that all meeting notices for all town boards, posted pursuant the Open Meetings Law, include mention of whether or not it will be televised.

The meeting minutes of the override discussion and the Walpole Times coverage can not adequately substitute for actually being able to see the meeting.

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