Kennewick’s city council has followed the lead of its neighbors in Pasco and Richland by opening up city business to the public with live broadcasts of its meetings.
“Kennewick should be commended for finally making this happen, and others should follow their example,” said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and a member of the Kirkland City Council.
With few exceptions, the cameras will roll any time the seven-man Kennewick council is in session, whether it is a regular meeting or a workshop.
The only exceptions will be if the council holds an off-site meeting, away from the cameras.
As it happens, the council’s Sept. 24 workshop will be held in the HAPO Lounge of Toyota Center and won’t be recorded.
The Kennewick council meets at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. The first and third Tuesday is a regular session. The second and fourth is a workshop.
Richland broadcasts regular meetings but not workshops, where councils hash out issues but make no decisions.
Pasco has been broadcasting regular meetings and workshops for several years, as well as planning commission and code enforcement meetings and, more recently, hearing examiner sessions.
And Kennewick is now recording both regular meetings and workshops. The video is streamed live to the city website, so no cable or streaming subscription is required.
Archived video is posted the next day, indexed so viewers can skip to the agenda items that interest them.
It paid $42,000 to install recording gear in the council chamber at Kennewick City Hall.
The annual cost to record, index and post video is about $17,000, said spokeswoman Evelyn Lusignan.
Kennewick meeting video is posted at go2kennewick.com/1256/Council-Meeting-Broadcasts.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Lee said reactions are uniformly positive, along with a few “what took you so long?”s.
Lee called it a big win for transparency in government and a great way for people who are considering moving to Kennewick to learn more about the community.
Councilman Paul Parish, who is retiring this year, said he hasn’t heard much feedback. He called it a good move, but is concerned the presence of TV cameras will inspire “grandstanding.”
Mayor Don Britain too has received little feedback, but called it a “great tool” for the community.
Councilman Chuck Torelli said he’s already used the archived video to review council discussions after the fact.
Councilman John Trumbo said he’s received no feedback, but called it a good idea.
Councilman Bill McKay was traveling and said he had not received feedback.
No law requires meetings online
No Washington law requires elected councils and commissions to broadcast public meetings.
But it goes a long way toward building a trust relationship with citizens, said Nixon, of the council for open government.
“Even if only a few people watch any particular meeting, the simple fact that they know they could do so if they wanted to is comforting and helps to build and retain trust — and that trust is essential to government being able to accomplish the important work people expect to get done,” he told the Herald.
Those who post video online
Pasco City Council: Livestreams and posts video through Charter Channel 191 and on its web-based streaming channel, Pasco City Television.
Those who post audio only
West Richland City Council: Posts audio but not video at westrichland.org/council-meeting-audio-recording-archives/
Benton County Commission: Posts audio but not video to bit.ly/BentonCountyAgendasandAudio. The county previously made video of its commission meetings available through public records requests, but discontinued the practice in 2016.
Franklin County Commission: Posts audio but not video to bit.ly/FranklinCountyCommissionAudio
Don’t post meetings
The Kennewick and Richland school boards do not post audio or video.
Kennewick School District spokeswoman Robyn Chastain said the board is not considering livestreaming board meetings at this time.