Opinion

Kenmore City Council makes meetings more accessible | Editorial

Kenmore City Hall - Reporter file photo
Kenmore City Hall
— image credit: Reporter file photo

All Kenmore residents should commend the Kenmore City Council and staff for moving forward with installing a new camera to livestream council meetings online. This issue is not about the nearly $7,000 spent on the camera and integration system, although it is an expenditure and those elected to govern have to make wise choices with taxpayer money. This decision is about some on the council making good on political promises, although Nigel Herbig should be commended for sticking to it and pushing for more transparency for the citizens of Kenmore. But all the councilmembers should be applauded because it takes agreement to get things passed - politicians in Washington D.C. have made that abundantly clear.

It is also about entering into the 21st Century and getting up to date technology in a City Hall that should have come with cameras in the first place. After all, both Bothell and Kirkland have cameras in their council chambers. Now it is Lake Forrest Park’s turn.

But the biggest issue is accessibility. There are some residents who have the time to drive to Kenmore City Hall, find a parking spot and attend the meeting. But there are a lot of people who cannot make it to council meetings due to schedule conflicts, disability or other issues that we all face in our busy lives. The reason we elect representatives is so that we can go about our lives and trust they are working on our behalf. But we also need access to these representatives, their public meetings and deliberations so if there are issues we care strongly about we can give them our two cents.

The council meeting audio has been available online. This was a good first step in this process. But there are issues that residents want to hear about in real time and may not be able to attend the meeting. Waiting for a day or two, or even longer, to hear council audio can be the difference of having enough time to contact a council member or city staff about an issue in time to make a difference. Discussions about serious local issues, such as the safety of pedestrians on Kenmore streets, need to be seen and heard in real time.

But this is a start and win for Kenmore residents wanting to take part in our democracy and be apart of their community’s important discussions.

But now that the council has the camera it is time for it to take the next step. Not everyone has a computer or phone with fast enough internet access to view the meetings online. A step that other cities have made, by getting council meetings broadcast to local residents through local cable systems, is also important. Access to local government should not be difficult, it should be easy. Kirkland and Bothell broadcast city council meetings on a local government channel and there is no reason that Kenmore can’t do this as well.

Matt Phelps is the regional editor for the Bothell/Kenmore Reporter.

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