Penick: Streaming web videos keep us informed

Updated 5/10/2011 9:13 AM

When our three children were little back in the 1980s, they preferred the soft-spoken manner found on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood over the quick-change acts and razzle-dazzle of Sesame Street.

I'm not sure why those two shows came to mind just now. Perhaps all the high-technology that aroused my senses after attending Naperville's recent Smart Grid Open House generated the thought.

Or maybe it was inspired by watching the men from JULIE that our neighbors called to mark their yard with colorful flags before they began digging for their latest landscaping project.

Or, possibly, I yearned to embrace some sweet memories from gentler times, considering that Mother Nature sadly seems to be spinning out of control this spring.

Interesting. Those two men from JULIE, equipped with their innovative tracking devices across the street, also sent me a simple signal two weeks ago as I prepared to leave my house. They were wearing knitted caps.

Another quick check of the thermometer revealed the temperature was holding at 44 degrees. So even though the calendar indicated we're halfway through spring, I grabbed my favorite red knitted hat and wrapped up in layers for my 3-mile Riverwalk trek with my walking partner.

Every week, we aspire to solve some of the world's problems, focused on local issues first.

More than once, knowing repetition helps with remembering, I've reiterated that during the past year I've become impressed and engaged with on-demand, online streaming videos now featured on websites provided by the City of Naperville, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and C-SPAN.

As a news junkie who has a difficult time fitting all the public meetings and workshops into my schedule, I applaud these positive efforts that bring more transparency to local government for folks who want to watch (or re-watch) elected officials during public and open meetings, budgetary workshops and reviews, planning meetings and other programs of interest to citizens.

When you consider the definition of transparent government implies openness, communication and accountability, on-demand streaming videos of public meetings give residents opportunities to watch the procedures in their entirety at their convenience.

You can see your elected officials in action. Hear their voices. Determine if they're prepared. Note how they interact with their governing body.

Readers will find the archives for Naperville meetings, workshops and some special events at Or simply look for the "e-agenda streaming" icon right up front on the home page of the city's website.

District 204 meetings and workshops are easily accessible at

Recent conversations with the communications and technology folks who helped create these on-demand services led me to discover such productions are relatively inexpensive. Plus, in District 204, videotaping the meetings has provided hands-on experience for the students who assist.

What's more, on several occasions, city council members noted that since they began holding budget workshops in the council chambers in clear view with public broadcast, residents have been more understanding about the process. The same has applied in District 204.

All that said, transparency goes beyond public meetings.

I'd like to see all public officials be open, forthcoming, frank, straightforward, available and candid behind the scenes, as well as in clear view. Answering phone calls from the media in a timely fashion is always appreciated, too.

During the recent election campaign, I asked many of the hopefuls (incumbents, too) running for office in Naperville Unit District 203, Naperville Park District and College of DuPage about online video streaming of public meetings.

Some of them were unaware of the online services Naperville and District 204 offer.

Here's hoping all elected officials will welcome more sunshine for all of us as they begin fiscal 2012.

Thanks to all candidates -- incumbents and newly elected -- who will help fill our governing bodies. Be prepared and eager to begin serving new terms and answering questions with civility.

Going forward, what will it be? What's in the box or behind the curtain? Or on-demand online transparency?

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.