Friday, July 31, 2015

Government Accountability with Riverside County Transportation


By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director
riversidetransit@gmail.com



Last week, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at its July 21st meeting to authorize county staff to work with other government agencies that want to live stream and/or video record their public meetings held at the Riverside County Administrative Center. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors meetings which are held there are currently broadcasted live online and through cable television with the recordings archived online for future public viewing. This move would allow such streaming and recording to be expanded to other entities using the county facility for their public meetings. The regional transportation governing bodies that currently use the meeting facility include the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Riverside Transit Agency.

County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries sponsored the initiative which could open the door to better government accountability and public transparency. To be clear, participation by RCTC, RTA and other public entities using the meeting room would be optional. Those entities would opt-in. The County would pay for the streaming access as part of the operating costs for meetings. The individual government agencies would pay for and handle the modification of their websites to include links to the recorded video.

If all said and done, this would be a great asset for the public and holding local politicians accountable.

Already, we can petition government officials and agency staff through email and online contact forms. Some decision makers also follow The Transit Coalition and take note of blog posts, campaigns, Coalition meetings in Los Angeles, and conversations on the social networking pages.

But if our transportation entities opted into this feature, anybody wanting to view such meetings live could tune in from their homes or offices, or they could watch the broadcast later through the agency's website without having to first contact the clerk.

Just like the County Board of Supervisors meetings, the public could be able to watch countywide transportation meetings in their full context and not have to be physically present. People can engage in official public hearings like highway and toll lane proposals and short range transit plans remotely by using email to submit their comments straight to the decision makers beforehand and watch anytime and anywhere of how the power structure reacts during the hearing itself.

People whose work or school schedules conflict with meeting times would be able to watch these meetings in their full context at later times. They won't be totally reliant on media reportage nor have to purchase audio recordings through the clerk in order to watch or listen to unedited meeting coverage. Plus, those who do take the time to attend the meetings and speak during the public comments or hearing sections will certainly have their voices heard better from the general public.

With this technology and streamlined availability of videos, We the People can see directly whether or not our local elected representatives who are serving on the RCTC and RTA boards are taking action on our petitions, suggestions or requests. They will be held to greater account because their actions and votes can be watched at anytime and anywhere from anyone via the Internet.

RCTC, RTA and other bodies using this meeting room space should jump aboard and opt-in.

I believe the start-up costs for RCTC, RTA and the other governing bodies would be very inexpensive. Since the County of Riverside would be handling the operating costs for the multi-media features and the hosting of the videos, simply posting links to the videos on the agency websites under the meeting section through a routine update could only involve a simple phone call to the agencies' webmasters pending board approval.

So I do hope that RTA and RCTC adopt this initiative.

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