All Lake County committee meetings could be televised
Seeking to boost government transparency, Lake County officials are developing a plan to videotape and broadcast all county board committee meetings.
Right now, only the full board's monthly meetings are videotaped. Those sessions are broadcast live on the county's local cable TV station, LCTV, and online at lctv.swagit.com. They're also available for later viewing online and on cable.
That doesn't satisfy several of the newly elected Democrats who campaigned last year to make government more open to the public.
"Residents deserve the right to see their government at work," said one of those Democrats, Buffalo Grove's Adam Didech.
The board's finance and administrative committee has reviewed different proposals and is leaning toward having one camera -- and one employee to operate it -- at each committee meeting.
The videos would be available for viewing online and on cable TV by the end of the next day, said Jennie Vana, the county's chief communications officer.
The committee also requested the communications staff investigate making the videos navigable so viewers can easily locate specific discussions.
Additionally, finance committee Vice Chairwoman Jessica Vealitzek asked the communications department to research the potential cost of adding closed captions for people with hearing disabilities.
"I was surprised to find out it's not a requirement under (the Americans with Disabilities Act)," said Vealitzek, a freshman Democrat from Hawthorn Woods.
The estimated cost of recording, editing and airing committee meetings hasn't been determined, officials said.
But proponents said the effort won't result in increased overall costs for the communications department. The necessary staff resources would shift from other responsibilities and projects, Vana said.
Because the proposal won't increase county spending, it won't require a board vote. The finance committee will make the final decision. That could happen at the committee's next meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 31, at the county government center in downtown Waukegan.
Tapings would begin at committee meetings the following week, Vana said.
That's good news for freshman Democrat Jennifer Clark, who said increasing government transparency was a primary reason for running last year.
"More transparency leads to better government," said Clark, of Libertyville. "I am proud to be a part of this movement."
County board members have proposed videotaping and airing the board's committee meetings before, but the requests never amounted to much. Meetings of the finance committee were broadcast for a while, but the practice was halted in 2017 because of low viewership.
Didech believes audience size shouldn't be a factor in whether the meetings are videotaped.
"We should measure transparency by how much information we're releasing to the public, not by page views," he said.
Last year, officials started making audio recordings of all committee meetings and archiving them online at lakecounty.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. The links for each recording incorrectly say "Video," however.
Vealitzek said audio recordings aren't enough.
"You can't tell who is talking half the time," she said.
Board Chairwoman Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, is a fan of the plan. The board is making "great strides" when it comes to transparency and accountability to taxpayers, she said.
"Taxpayers deserve to know how their county board member voted on issues that matter to them, and to watch the deliberations and information related to the vote," Hart said.