Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Port of Walla Walla is going in the right direction as it is makes plans to record meetings and streamline those meetings from the current average length of five to six hours.
These moves should make attending meetings more palatable for interested citizens and allow those who have questions or concerns about Port business to review the tapes. The people's business, as it should be, must always be done in view of the people.
But spending $100,000 for recording equipment and revamping the meeting room seems unnecessary. The Port can -- and should -- find a way to begin the process of recording meetings for a nominal amount.
A reasonably priced digital recording system with a few microphones should be enough to get the process started.
Now, at this point, the Port commissioners have not authorized the spending of $100,000 -- and they might have no intentions to do so. The $100,000 figure is an estimate of what it would cost for a full-blown overhaul of the meeting room.
If everything is done it would result in new recording equipment and changes to the Port's website so the recordings could be accessible from home computers.
The full package also includes new furniture with built-in microphones that could identify who was speaking. This approach would eliminate the need to string cables around the room.
In addition, the $100,000 price tag would allow for the purchase of an overhead projection system and computer to run the system.
The commissioners have not agreed to any of these purchases. They said they want additional details on the proposal with firm prices. They are hoping the numbers would be substantially less than the $100,000 estimate.
It is our hope commissioners and Port staff find a way to record meetings and make those recordings accessible for a few thousand dollars. It doesn't have to be state of the art, merely functional -- at least for now.
Then, over time, changes can be made -- if necessary -- to improve the recording system and the meeting room.
We also believe commissioners should see if it is possible to have the audio of Port meetings broadcast on cable television as is now done with Walla Walla City Council meetings.
Port commissioners have already made no-cost changes that should serve the public, such as moving the work sessions to one hour before the meeting at the same location as the meeting. These sessions will no longer be held at restaurants where they were conducted over meals. Linking the two sessions and compressing the time should make the meetings more efficient and accessible to the public.
Making it easier for the public to follow actions of the Port -- or any taxpayer-funded agency -- doesn't have to be expensive.