Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Audio Isn't Enough

According to Robin Yess over at the Liberty Coalition, UC Legislator Tracey Bartels has introduced a draft resolution that would make audio recordings of committee meetings available online:
Kudos to Legislator Tracey Bartels for introducing Draft Resolution 250 for this month’s legislative session, which calls for the posting of audio recordings from Legislative Committee meetings within twenty-four hours of the meeting.
Indeed, Bartels is certainly one of the more enlightened members of the legislature, thus I'm not surprised by her efforts to improve government transparency.

But I do have one problem with this solution. How many of us know our legislator's name? Not too many, I would imagine. And here's another question: How many of us would know our legislator if we bumped into him or her at the post office? Can you, right now, identify your legislator by sight alone? Most of us have no idea what these folks look like.

The reason I bring this up is because those listening to an audio recording online will have no way of identifying who is speaking. An audio recording alone, without any accompanying visual cues, will make these recordings difficult for the public to sift through. If most of us don't know our legislator's name or face, we're very unlikely to be able to identify his or her voice. Now, formally, a speaker will be recognized by whomever is chairing the committee, but there is also quite a bit of back and forth banter that happens. Anyway, you see my point, I'm sure.

The simplest solution is to record these sessions with video. And there are so many low-cost solutions out there, that I find it hard to understand why this hasn't happened. Indifference? Ineptitude? Both, probably.

But don't get me wrong. I love this idea, as it's a big step in the right direction -- and it's better than what we have now, which is zilch. So let's make sure our legislators know that we support Bartels's resolution, but also that it's just a first step toward bringing county government transparency into the 21st century.

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