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Easthampton City Council to consider rule about videotaping meetings

EASTHAMPTON — The City Council voted to send the issue of videotaping meetings to a subcommittee for further consideration after hearing opinions on both sides of the issue at Wednesday’s meeting.

The issue cropped up this fall when two committees — the Community Preservation Act Committee and the Housing Partnership — voted not to videotape their meetings despite a memo from Mayor Michael A. Tautznik asking all committees to activate the equipment installed in meeting rooms to make more meetings available for viewing on local cable channels and online.

On Tuesday, the Development and Industrial Commission also voted not to videotape their meetings, and longtime volunteers Robert Harrison and David Boyle said this week that they plan to resign from three boards because they oppose videotaping.

Councilor Daniel D. Rist proposed a rule Wednesday that would require only City Council subcommittees to record the meetings. He believes elected boards — the council and the School Committee — should be the only ones required to record their meetings.

Councilor Daniel C. Hagan said he supported Rist’s proposed rule, but thought the council should discuss the issue of videotaping for all committees, not just elected ones.

“I’m not saying we should immediately move to create an ordinance, but I think it is a valuable service. I’ve used it at times,” he said, explaining that he has watched the videos when he has missed meetings.

The council voted unanimously to ask the City Council Rules and Government Relations Subcommittee to consider Rist’s proposed rule for council subcommittees and also to discuss the subject of videotaping for all boards.

Clay Crow, who has served on several city committees, told the council that the “presence of unmanned video cameras destroys the creativity of volunteers because they think that any carefully scrutinized comment they might make could result in public ridicule and government investigation,” he said. “This most certainly will result in a lack of volunteers when we need them the most.”

Councilor Donald L. Cykowski agreed that members comments could be taken out of context with video. “I’d hate to see anyone get picked on because they don’t know the whole story,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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