Smile, city government, you’re on webcast camera

government could have a lot more eyes and ears on its business — in real time on the Internet.

The City provides live audio and video broadcast on its Web site for 14 boards, committees and commissions that hold public meetings at City Hall. Archives of the meetings — which include the Board of Supervisors and its six committees along with the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni — are also provided on the site for up to one year.

But about 100 boards, committees and commmissions that meet at City Hall escape that kind of scrutiny, with public access limited to meeting minutes posted online or by requesting an audio cassette.

The Entertainment Commission, Department of Environment, Recreation and Park Commission, Animal Welfare and Control Commission and the Ethics Commission are among those that escape the live and archived broadcast.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced legislation that would require The City to stream live audio and video of public meetings at City Hall as well as establish an archive, with footage held for two years. The bill would require posting the meetings’ footage within 72 hours.

Mirkarimi said the law would enhance The City’s sunshine ordinance, which requires public access to certain city government information, and uses advancements in technology to move toward “complete transparency.”

The proposal is estimated to cost about $76,000 annually in labor costs, according to city officials. The City would also spend $55,000 from its Cable Franchise Capital Fund to purchase necessary equipment for startup.

Open-government advocate Kimo Crossman praised the proposed law, but advocated for same-day posting of the archived footage.

“The real value of the recording is to be able to read the story in the newspaper and then go listen to it,” Crossman said. “You really want to encourage same-day postage so people can listen to and participate in the government, because a few days later people forget about it and move on to different things.”

SFGTV Station Manager Jack Chin said that “No other city in the country provides this much meeting coverage.”

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee voted Thursday to send the bill to the full board with recommendation for its approval. The full board is expected to vote on it on April 15.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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