PENNSYLVANIA'S #1 WEEKLY NEWSPAPER • locally owned since 1854

Lower Swatara livestreaming of meetings is a great idea: Editorial

Posted 2/27/19

Cost and questions about whether the videos would be public records should not stop Lower Swatara Township from streaming its board of commissioners meetings.

Commissioner Chris DeHart brought up …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Lower Swatara livestreaming of meetings is a great idea: Editorial

Posted

Cost and questions about whether the videos would be public records should not stop Lower Swatara Township from streaming its board of commissioners meetings.

Commissioner Chris DeHart brought up the idea during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting, noting that other bodies, such as Middletown Borough Council, do so.

“It may get more people involved and see what’s going on,” DeHart said.

We agree. The more people who can view what is going on, the better.

Would there be huge viewership of these meetings? Maybe not. But technology should help shine a light on how our government works. Livestreaming meetings would help this immensely, especially for those people who aren’t able to attend.

Commissioner Michael Davies said that representatives from other municipalities to whom he spoke about livestreaming said some officials “performed” for the cameras.

“One of the things that they readily observed was cameras make people talk much longer about things, which is not always a bad thing,” Davies said.

We have not seen either of those concerns as an issue with Middletown meetings, however.

DeHart said it cost Middletown $799 for the equipment and $2,300 in annual charges.

During the board’s Jan. 16 meeting, township manager Betsy McBride reported that one company would charge several thousand dollars to get such a system started — recording the meetings, putting them online, and storing them for six weeks — but it would cost more to have a staff member at the meeting to record it.

We are cognizant that the process would come with an actual financial cost. But we feel the cost would be worth it. We very much appreciate what Middletown has done with livestreaming. The videos from the meetings remain on the borough’s website for review, and they are a wonderful resource not only to watch live, but to be able to go back to and watch later.

That’s why we are concerned with part of the discussion regarding potential Lower Swatara livestreaming. Instead of treating the archived videos as a resource for the community, they were discussed in terms of meeting the lowest threshold necessary to stay compliant with state Right-to-Know Laws.

Vice President Todd Truntz asked, in terms of the Right-to-Know Law, if the videos would become public records. Township solicitor Peter Henninger said if the videos aren’t destroyed, then they could be subject to Right-to-Know requests.

“There are concerns that I would have as your solicitor that it be a system that you could wipe and [be] consistent with your policy of maintaining of that record. It can be done, no doubt about it,” Henninger said.

The system should maintain the meeting coverage, not wipe it clean, even if that means paying a bit more to store those videos.

We hope the township continues to discuss the possibility of livestreaming and that it does not let the few hurdles, which can be easily overcome, stand in the way of a more open government.