ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission tabled a request Tuesday by local Fox TV affiliate WFXL and The Albany Herald to provide live streaming video coverage of the commission’s monthly business meetings.
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell called for a vote to table the issue, saying the proposed online streaming would “discriminate” against people who do not own computers.
But it was perhaps Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard’s warning after the vote that got the attention of commissioners.
“I’d like to give this group an introduction to Dealing with the Press 101,” Howard said. “Not to run down other commissioners who came before this group, but some of them let their ego get the best of them and they started ‘playing for the cameras’ when we televised the meetings before. That got out in the public, and other communities used it against us, saying our meetings were ‘like a circus.’
“Other cities were using this to their advantage telling people ‘you don’t want to come to Albany because of the way they’re governed.’ This group is different, but I’d have to warn against a renegade commissioner ... What I’m saying is we’d have to govern ourselves. We’ve got new blood around this table, but (the potential for public scrutiny) is my only drawback.”
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff asked if the commission could “kill” any agreement with the media outlets if it wasn’t pleased with the results, and City Manager James Taylor said the commission could ask for any stipulations it wanted.
“(WFXL and The Herald) sought permission to set up equipment in here from the building’s owner — the county — and got it,” Taylor said. “But whether you allow them to show your meetings live in any format is up to you.”
Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines asked if the commission might allow the streaming on a six-month trial basis, and Langstaff said, “What about a day-to-day trial?”
Asked if the two media outlets were the only ones that would be allowed to stream the meetings under the proposed agreement, Taylor said he approached the city’s other TV station, NBC/ABC affiliate WALB, and was told it wasn’t interested.
Told that no money would change hands if the measure was approved, Postell said, “This offers no value to the city other than providing live coverage of the meetings for a certain group of people who can’t attend. But Fox and The Herald stand to gain financially; there’s going to be money going somewhere.”
Also at the meeting, Public Works Director Phil Roberson outlined a plan to update the city’s solid waste ordinance to include fees for property owners who leave non-yard trimmings outside provided trash containers for the city to pick up. Roberson said the additional fees will help recoup an expected significant landfill fee increase when the Maple Hill Landfill currently used by the city shuts down in 2014.
“The goal is to contain the cost so the sticker shock is not so severe in 2014,” Roberson said.
Commissioners also voted to approve a $22,000 study by the UGA-based Carl Vinson Institute of Government on organizational efficiency between the city and its Water, Gas & Light Commission to search for duplications of services; approved $718,530.79 to replace almost 300 portable and mobile radios in the city that are more than 16 years old; approved $98,641 — plus an annual $16,645 licensing fee — for software upgrades to integrate four systems in the Finance department, and approved a call by Code Enforcement Director Mike Tilson to remove what he called an “unenforceable” exemption in the city’s charter that allows commercial vehicles to stay in neighborhoods for eight hours at a time.
In a special called meeting before the work session, the commission authorized Taylor to execute a letter of indemnity required by the state so that Saturday’s Salute to Veterans memorial could be held.
Paul Murray, a spokesman for veterans groups who attended the meeting, said, “Smaller cities than ours hold parades honoring veterans, but for some reason we do not. It’s like the local bureaucracy doesn’t want to bother with us. We’re asking the commission to work with us to honor those who serve.”
Commissioners also authorized $276,584 in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funds to extend sanitary sewer in the city’s Pointe North section. Oxford Construction Co. was low bidder on the project.