Thank you Jon Mays for your excellent June 21 column, “All public meetings should be recorded.” Your comments seem intuitive but not to officials in my city of Belmont. In Belmont, there are no video or audio recordings of meetings of the Audit Committee and Measure I Advisory Committee. In addition, only audio recordings are made of the crucial annual priority setting meetings of the City Council, and those audios are not posted online.
The failure to make recordings of these committee meetings is especially harmful to transparency because minutes of these meetings, and City Council meetings, are “action minutes,” with few details of the proceedings. Comments by the public are often marginalized or completely omitted from the minutes of these meetings, so there is little record of contrary opinions.
The Audit Committee is the only committee that oversees Belmont’s budget and finances, making recordings of its meetings even more essential. Despite repeated requests from me and others that these meetings be recorded, committee members and councilmembers have refused to even discuss the issue. City Treasurer John Violet, who chairs the Audit Committee, said recordings aren’t needed because of the minutes. However, those “action minutes” are woefully inadequate and biased.
While video recordings are made of most City Council meetings, the council approved a record retention period of only five years for the videos. If those videos are destroyed, all that will be left is the scanty and biased “action minutes” of the meetings. I agree with Editor Mays that there are inexpensive ways to preserve these recordings, and there should be no time limit for retention.
Councilmembers argued in the last election that they are transparent, but their actions regarding recording of public meetings and retention of records belies that claim.