Originally created 10/06/04

Video council meetings



The more people who get to see their elected officials' decision-making process in action the better. That is what representative democracy is all about.

This is becoming an issue in Aiken County as the county council considers whether to let its regularly scheduled meetings be shown on cable TV. Of course it should.

At most, only a few dozen residents usually come to meetings, unless there's a hot topic under discussion, in which case the number balloons, but even then it doesn't come close to what the TV audience would be: about 70,000 viewers.

One argument against the TV broadcast, as voiced by Councilwoman LaWana McKenzie, is that some on the nine-member council might tend "to grandstand" for the cameras.

Well, that's the chance they take - not the viewers, but the elected officials. Learning how representatives react when the spotlight's on them can provide some telling insights into their character and turn of mind.

If they let their egos run away with their good sense, or good taste, they only make themselves look ridiculous. Of course, as we've seen with the Augusta Commission, that knowledge doesn't necessarily stop elected officials from making public spectacles of themselves.

Another argument against going video is that it might discourage some residents from coming to meetings and asking questions. To the contrary, Aiken Countians who weren't much interested in the affairs of their government might well become interested after watching a few council meetings on TV. And if they have any questions the TV ought to encourage them to come in and ask them - not keep questioners away.

In short, TV is probably more likely to boost attendance than to curb it. As is done in Augusta, the meetings would be aired more than once - they'd be rerun several times. This also provides learning opportunities about local government for schools and colleges in the region.

The county council should green-light the TV plan as soon as practicable.