A webcam, tripod and laptop will soon become fixtures at Long Beach City Hall, as the new City Council will live stream all of its meetings starting Tuesday.
During her campaign, President Fran Adelson vowed to podcast the meetings. When she and her fellow Democratic running mates Len Torres and Scott Mandel were inducted to the City Council on Jan. 1, Adelson had the ceremony live streamed and the webcast was posted on the city’s website, archived under the “City Government” tab on its homepage. Now the new-look administration will do the same with City Council meetings, which are held the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
“I’m so excited because it will give people who aren’t able to be here the opportunity to know what’s going on in the city and be part of what’s happening,” Adelson said after the induction ceremony, which had a peak of 66 live stream viewers. “And this may inspire them to come to a meeting or at least get involved.”
The trio of equipment cost the city $630, and Gordon Tepper, the city’s director of online communications, will record each meeting using USTREAM.TV. The webcasts will include Good and Welfare sessions, in which residents can address the council on any government-related issue. The sessions have long been held at the council’s first meeting of the month, but at Tuesday’s meeting the council will vote on a resolution to extend these sessions to each meeting.
These measures, including monthly meetings that council members plan to hold in neighborhoods throughout the city, are aimed at encouraging residents’ participation in local government. “Dialogue with our citizens is very, very important to us, and we want you to know what’s happening in our city,” Adelson said during her induction address.
The administration has also started to revamp the city’s website to make it more user-friendly. Adelson found that portions of site were underutilized. A tab that visitors can use to contact the city via email, for example, was moved from the bottom left of the homepage to near the top and center.
“It was such a small, little feature that it didn’t really work,” Adelson said. “Now that’s the first thing you see when you start reading the page.”
Adelson also plans to include a “community videos” section, to keep users informed about the goings-on in the city. “We want to have different organizations and different people send us videos,” Adelson said.
The city is already making more use of the scroll feature on the homepage. “Any time there is some kind of important notice, we will feature it prominently on the main page,” Gordon Tepper said.
When Tepper started to work for the city last June, he immediately launched the city’s official Facebook and Twitter pages. As of Monday, the Facebook page has 1,754 fans and Twitter has 194 followers. The Facebook account attracted many new fans as Hurricane Irene slammed the city last August, and Tepper was constantly updating the social media pages with information.
“The social networking sites are, in many ways, far more valuable than the actual City of Long Beach website,” Tepper said. “People may visit our website once a week or once a month, but they'll probably log into Facebook virtually every day.”