Town Meeting should have live coverage by local cable if at all possible, said selectmen Thursday, responding to a request for an opinion by Town Moderator Bill Gouveia.
The Moderator had suggested recently in a letter to the board that not televising the yearly event might bring out residents who otherwise might opt to watch the festivities on television, and while members understood his reservations, they unanimously endorsed not only Town Meeting coverage, but coverage of every town and school meeting of interest to townspeople when and if the technology is available.
“I think whenever we can have live meetings, we should do it,” said Robert Kimball, while acknowledging technical challenges often make that coverage impossible.
“People watching might get agitated enough to jump in the car and come down.”
Kimball noted people have requested on-the-spot cable coverage of the recent and protracted hearings on the Pheeny’s Island project, but so far that filming has not been possible because of the location of the meetings.
“If people watching at home don’t agree (with the discussion) it may give them a reason to come down,” Kimball said, adding personal involvement in town affairs often brings residents to the point where they are willing to volunteer their time on boards and committees.
Member Tim Giblin said he agreed that anything the town can see live on their local cable channel only helps both residents and committee members.
“Sometimes, people watching have had answers,” Giblin said, pointing out residents have often responded to on-air discussions by coming into meetings either at the live session or later on.
“It’s better than airing it at the coffee shop,” said board member Robert Salvo. He added the water department meetings had just been made live this year, and suggested cable officials be asked to come into a meeting of selectmen and explain what the technical problems are to date.
Town Manager Michael Yunits said a local cable cameraman had just been in to talk with him, and had explained that the town and school cable setups and wiring are on different systems, making some live broadcasts impossible. But he agreed with Salvo that it would be a good idea for residents to have an explanation of what can and cannot be put on the screen.
He added once the cable studio has moved to a new facility, coverage of more town affairs may become routine.
Chairman Brad Bramwell noted many older residents who can’t get out to meetings nonetheless have been active and interested members of the community for many years, and value local cable as a way to stay informed.
“Also, for younger people this can be a valuable teaching tool – they can learn what it’s all about and see how it works,” he said. “It might stimulate people who would be interested in getting on a board or committee.”
Selectmen will request a public session with town cable officials.