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Video sends City Hall meetings around world
Video sends City Hall meetings around world
By SUE REID
When the City of Solon installed a control room in its new City Hall nearly 15 years ago to broadcast its meetings on television, officials had several goals in mind.
One such goal was to make the filming process the least intrusive as possible for the people on the council floor, Solon resident James Leib said.
Mr. Leib, president of LPV Productions in Solon, the city's production crew, works to do just that. Each week, along with one of five assistants, he has worked behind the scenes from day one in what is now a near all-digital control room.
He is responsible for broadcasting all of the city's meetings, including council, planning commission, public works, safety and public properties and finance.
"We don't have any camera people in the room, just remote-control cameras," Mr. Leib said. "We try to make it as less intrusive as possible."
The cameras follow whoever is speaking on the floor, as well as capture text or photographs being displayed on any particular issue. Mr. Leib also replays videos that are brought in when necessary. There are five large televisions on the council floor, and each of the seven council members has a small television in front of him or her.
The number of meetings that are being broadcast has grown over the years, Mr. Leib said. First, the crew began broadcasting just four meetings a month, two city council meetings and two planning commission meetings, he said. Five years later, the committee meetings were added.
All of the city's meetings can be viewed on Time Warner Channel 20, which is the government channel. Another informational channel is Channel 24 and the school news and programming is broadcast on Channel 22.
Broadcasting meetings is something that is common in most larger cities throughout the state, Mr. Leib said.
"All have their meetings broadcast," he said. "Solon produces more meetings than most cities." Mr. Leib said the city has always wanted to make its meetings accessible to all the residents.
Three years ago, Mr. Leib worked to make that accessibility even more far-reaching, broadcasting live screenings of the meetings on the Internet.
"I wanted to have it online too," Mr. Leib said. "Up until that time, people needed to be a Time Warner cable subscriber in order to see the meetings. I wanted it online so it could be accessible to anybody."
In addition to the live screenings of the meetings, the production crew also archives them as far back as a year ago.
"You can watch any meeting from the past year online," Mr. Leib said.
He said it is "amazing" how many people watch the meetings online. Some months they get 12,000 hits, he said, with many coming from all over the world, including China, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Robert Seitz, a production assistant from Solon, said that those hits can be from people on business trips or traveling, as well as companies looking to relocate their branch in the area.
"They could keep abreast of what is going on in Solon," he said.
Mr. Leib, who has lived in Solon for the past 20 years, said that, as technology has improved, the city has upgraded its cameras as well as other equipment that is used. "The control room is mostly digital," he said. "We've been upgrading it."
In the near future, Mr. Leib said, they will be broadcasting with AT&T's U-verse system, which is similar to cable.
In addition to the meetings, Mr. Leib and his crew have produced informational videos about the city. They also made a marketing video as well for the city, he said. A couple of years ago, the crew went along with the fire department for a controlled burn as part of their ongoing fire training. That appeared on the show "Solon Speaks," which also broadcasts the mayor's "state of the city" address as well as council members speaking once a year on subjects that affect each of their wards.
Mr. Seitz said they have filmed informational topics for city residents such as the new automated trash pickup trucks and snowplowing.
A few months ago, they filmed smoke testing at resident's homes to ensure that the sanitary-sewer lines were not connected to the storm-sewer line.
Funding for the television broadcasts comes from franchise fees collected from Time Warner. In the future, that will come from AT&T as well, Mr. Leib said. A portion of the franchise fees also goes to the schools for its broadcasting.
"Originally, when this began, the city wanted to use the franchise fees in order to give back by making the meetings accessible through the cable," Mr. Leib said.
He said the duration of the meetings he films has varied through the years.
"Some of the meetings have gone into the next day," he said. "We've had five-hour meetings." Those that center on "hot topics" get the most viewers, he said. At those meetings, Solon has always let the residents speak their mind, Mr. Leib said. "They always want to hear from the residents."
Broadcasting the meetings has resulted in a more "open government" in Solon, Mr. Leib said.
As a business owner and resident, Mr. Leib said, "I've always felt it a privilege to serve the citizens of the city."
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