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Onondaga County lawmakers to consider expanding live streaming of meetings

county stream camera.jpg
Scott Willis
/
WAER News
A small camera near legislature chairman Jim Rowley streams and records legislative session proceedings. But the audio and video quality are lacking.

Onondaga County lawmakers are considering improving and expanding the way they live stream their meetings. Legislative sessions have been streamed and recorded in some form since the pandemic, but the video and audio quality are lacking. Democratic floor leader Chris Ryan presented a last minute resolution at yesterday’s session with the hope of streaming committee meetings where most legislative details hare hammered out. This would supplement meeting minutes, which are vague and missing essential information, such as who said what.

"There have been some significant changes to the recording and transcribing of minutes. We could do the live streaming of the committees so we'd have a better idea for the legislators who can't make it, and also the general public."

But most lawmakers decided to postpone action, and sent the measure to, you guessed it, committee for further discussion. GOP floor leader Brian May echoed most lawmakers in agreeing that the current streaming arrangement is less than ideal, and wants more time to discuss a better plan.

"I think we can do better than that little thing right there, filming this room, not getting the audio people want to have," said May, pointing to a tiny camera on a tripod connected to a laptop. "I think we're going to have to budget a little bit of money to do this right."

In the interim, though, Ryan’s resolution proposed a no-cost plan in hopes of quickly authorizing streaming of committee meetings heading into budget negotiations, which begin next week. Republican Ken Bush was among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who want to find a way to make that happen.

"While it might not be the greatest operation going, just continue it through the budget season. Then come back with something that's more first class, if we want to elevate to different platforms that I'm not familiar with. I have constituents who complain about this, trying to access it."

Legislator Linda Ervin, a democrat, agreed.

"Is there some way we can just continue to use the equipment we have now temporarily for budget and budget only. Because, it's going to be a week and a half of intense meetings that people will not have any access to, otherwise."

In the end, lawmakers voted 15 to 2 to send the streaming proposal to committee. That means they won’t take up a final plan until their next session, after the budget debate.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.