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Article updated: 3/25/2013 10:11 AM

Candidates want Aurora meetings recorded for greater transparency

By Marie Wilson

Aurora alderman-at-large candidates Bob O'Connor and Rick Lawrence don't agree on much, but they both would like to see the city begin videotaping council meetings and making the recordings easily available on TV and online.

O'Connor, who is running April 9 for re-election to the seat he has held since 1985, and Lawrence, who is seeking the at-large spot instead of running again to represent Ward 4, both said recording the meetings would improve government transparency and accessibility to residents.

"There's really no reason why we can't" record city council meetings, said O'Connor, a 68-year-old attorney. "I think it's important. I think people need to understand what the process is, what we do. I think they need to feel like they can participate, that they understand what's happening."

Lawrence said Aurora city government needs to be more transparent. While city spokesman Dan Ferrelli said audio recordings are made of all committee meetings, sessions of the full city council are not recorded.

"It's tremendously important to have that stuff documented," said Lawrence, 48, who is president and CEO of Nuyen Awning. "There's no documentation of what anyone said other than maybe some minutes. Committee meetings are recorded, but city council is not in any way recorded at all, which is really bizarre."

O'Connor said video broadcasting should be expanded to committee meetings as well, if possible.

"That's where a lot of the activity takes place, where a lot of the byplay goes on in regard to discussion on items," O'Connor said about meetings of panels on finance, planning and development, government operations or buildings, grounds and infrastructure. "I think that's just a good idea to expose as much as possible."

The city considered installing cameras, wiring and equipment to tape meetings in the council chambers, and in 2008 received a quote of about $50,000 for the work. Adding video recording capability to other rooms where committees meet would have required additional funds.

No action was taken before the recession began and the city was forced to make cuts in its budget and staffing.

Aurora Community TV was one area where cuts were made, and the station saw its staffing decrease from five full-time positions to two in 2009 and only one in 2010.

The city has not heard many requests from the public for it to be done, so Ferrelli said officials decided to focus ACTV programming on the station's public access role.

O'Connor said all it would take to begin recording, broadcasting and posting city council meetings is an elected official to back the idea.

"If you want to do something, you can do it if you just put the resources and give the direction," O'Connor said.

Ferrelli said possible decreases in the cost of recording technology also could help.

"The city is exploring options is to make basic video or audio recordings available online, hopefully by the end of this year," he said.

To see complete coverage of all the suburban races, including candidate profiles, endorsements and news analysis, go to http://www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/.

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