It’s become a political buzz word that made its way into questions at two candidates forum in Long Beach: transparency.
Constituents asked the six candidates running for City Council about the measures they would take to create more transparency in city government, and, in a related query, if they favored broadcasting the council’s meetings.
Democrat Fran Adelson, who campaigned on the issue in her first bid for a council set in 2009, believes advances in technology such as live streaming will benefit citizens unable to attend council meetings, and podcasts can be posted to the city website.
“The only way that you can really have people know what’s going on in the city is to have them see the city council meetings,” Adelson said at the forum at the West End Community Center on Tuesday. “I think for disclosure reasons alone, it’s a great idea.”
Each candidate said they favored some form of broadcasting the meetings, at least in theory, since there are other issues to consider. While Adelson and fellow Democrat Len Torres said that it can be done with “little money,” Republican running mates, President Thomas Sofield Jr. and Vice President Mona Goodman, said that when the city previously looked into broadcasting the meetings with Cablevision, it was “prohibitively costly.”
Otherwise, Goodman said she would “really not have any problem at all having the council meetings being televised somehow.”
She indicated webcasting may be preferable, as did Sofield, who also cautioned that research must be done first.
“It’s not as easy as just plugging in a camera into a computer in front of a City Council and hooking into Cablevision or FiOS,” Sofield said.
Fellow Republican candidate Marvin Weiss believes broadcasting council meetings is a great form of communicating with and educating constituents.
“The opportunity for something like that is important with our society and our world being smaller and smaller,” said Weiss, a second-time candidate. “This would be an asset to us, in addition to being an asset to the younger generation, who may never attend a meeting.”
Democrat Scott Mandel, a newcomer to politics, simply said that he was 100 percent behind the proposal and was confused as to why webcasting doesn’t already exist.
Torres said he was surprised by some of his experiences since he was elected to the council in 2009.
“And I think that the public needs to see this,” Torres continued. “I think it’s part of open government and transparency.”
In addition, Adelson called for better administration of Freedom of Information requests, specifically that they “be answered and that you get the information within the legal time allotted,” she said. She also wants Good and Welfare sessions, which allow residents to address the council on any government-related issues, to be held at all meetings, not just the first of two monthly meetings.
Goodman believes the council should try to hold meetings around different parts of Long Beach, she said, just as the Republican administration did in years past when a particularly large-scale issue was before the council.
“[I thought those meetings] were a very nice thing, to be able to go into a community center or into East School and sit down with a group of residents in a much more comfortable setting than sitting up on a dais and having people come up to the microphone,” she said.
She said she doesn’t think there is problem with transparency in city government.
“I think we’re all very accessible,” she said. “Certainly the city manager is and the council members. It’s very easy to email us and leave us a message. We get back to you very, very quickly. But I’m open to suggestions.”