Miami Beach

Bal Harbour

Bal Harbour to start streaming village council meetings online

 

Special to the Miami Herald

Residents who are unable to attend a Bal Harbour Village Council meeting will now be able to watch it live from anywhere on the planet.

The council is streaming the meetings online starting with this month’s meeting on Nov.19. The November meeting will air on delay, but December’s meeting will stream live. Residents can view the meetings on the village website www.balharbour.org.

Council members Patricia Cohen and Martin Packer led the way in inspiring the village to air the meetings. The council approved the idea in September.

“Airing the meetings is another effort on the part of municipal government, as well as elected officials, to be more accessible and transparent in carrying out their duties,” she wrote in an email.

Streaming video of the meeting and archiving past meetings will have a one-time cost of about $14,000 for software and licensing, plus an annual fee of about $1,000 for website services. The company working on the project is BIS Digital, which works with several municipalities.

At first, some members of the council showed opposition but later changed their minds, like village assistant mayor Joni Blachar.

“Given the many important issues set to come before the village council, I felt that broadcasting our meetings would allow our residents a greater understanding of how the village operates and let them become involved in the process,” she said. “As a council member, I obviously would like as much participation as possible from the community, and I think that providing an opportunity to view the council meetings may help to spur this involvement.”

The village airs a slide show with Bal Harbour information on Channel77, a public information channel provided by Atlantic Broadband cable. In the past, the village would keep an audio recording of each meeting that was available upon request. Those who made such a request would pay a small charge for the compact disc. For now, only the council meetings will stream online.

Cohen said she was excited that fellow council members approved streaming the meetings.

“The future and success of our community depends directly on the level of engagement and connection that citizens experience toward their hometown and to its governing body’s decision-making process, since its decisions affect all residents at one time or another,” she said.

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