La Palma Council splits 3-2 on televising meetings

City of La Palma

The City of La Palma voted at their most recent meeting not to study installing video cameras to allow citizens to actually see their city council meetings.

According to recordings of the meeting, the Council, after a long discussion, voted 3-2 to study ways to improve the audio but refused to consider even looking into possibly adding a video feed to allow residents to actually participate in the Council’s deliberations.
Council member Janet Keo Conklin asked the Council to consider studying the addition of audio and video recordings.

“It would help us be more open and transparent to the rest of our community,” said Conklin. “It would make us more available to our residents,” she said, noting that residents had asked her about it during her recent campaign for the Council seat.
Some elderly residents have a hard time hearing, said Conklin, and adding visibility as well would improve the council’s ability to be transparent for citizens who cannot make it to meetings.

Councilman Mark Walkman worried that if the city had video cameras in city hall, people might actually speak to the Council more and longer.

“It may cause grandstanding,” said Waldman. Grandstanding is described as acting in a “showy or ostentatious manner to attract attention.”

Waldman said those appearing on video would not only “speak longer,” and he felt like cameras in the meeting room “doesn’t add to the discussion.”
He said it would be “very expensive, require editing and perhaps have to include multiple languages.”

Currently, the city uses its own verbal audio system that does not visually identify speakers during discussions, is not bilingual, and often misidentifies speakers.

For instance, at the most recent meeting, a speaker named Sherry Forbes was identified by the La Palma system both as “Sherry Forbes” and then later as “Sherry Pork.”

Council member Nitesh Patel suggested the addition of video cameras could be expensive since the city did not plan for them during its recent multimillion renovation.

“I understand we did not include that in our recent renovation,” said Patel. “That was left behind so there would have to be significant upgrades to have that kind of camera system,” he added.

“I know that this was brought up by a previous Council member and we voted against it with the same concerns,” he said.

What harm can come to the citizens or the Council by just gathering information on audio and video, asked Mayor Pro-tem Marshall Goodman. “It would just give us information on what’s happening [in the field of citizen outreach],” he suggested.

The Council was not having it, apparently, as Waldman moved to study using better microphones but no video.

Goodman, however, made a substitute motion to include Conklin’s suggestion of audio and video in the study.

The substitute failed 3-2, with Mayor Debbie Baker, Patel and Waldman voting against having citizens watch their Council in action with Goodman and Conklin voted for it.
Then the Council voted on Waldman’s audio-only motion, which passed 3-2, with the same split of Baker, Waldman, and Patel voting for the motion.

The Council also learned they must comply with new state mandates on the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) or Junior ADUs that take virtually all control away from local governments to prevent their construction or acceptance of existing units.
Goodman said he wanted to make sure citizens understand the Council is merely “abiding by state regulation, not creating anything on our own. This is not our creation,” he said, “we’re just following the law.”

In other action, the Council ratified a resolution recognizing Black History Month.