A Greenville councilwoman wants to hold budget sessions away from the unblinking eye of television cameras that carry board proceedings on a local cable station. Rose Glover suggested during the March 14 council meeting that the board hold at least one budget workshop in the first-floor conference room of City Hall. The council normally meets in its chambers on the third floor, where four television cameras feed the proceedings to viewers on cable GTV 9, the city’s government-access channel. ‘I want everybody to be comfortable and not feel like they ” re under the eye of the TV,’ Glover said of her suggestion.
Council members’ behavior is affected by the cameras, she said. ‘You feel like you ” ve got to dress right, look right.’ Budget discussions could turn to delicate subjects, such as raising property taxes and cutting or freezing employment positions. ‘When you have to talk about things such as that, you don’t want to talk about it on TV with the people who it would affect listening,’ Glover said. An informal, candid discussion is especially crucial to the budget discussion because the city is in financial straits created by Gov.
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Mike Easley’s decision to hold back scheduled reimbursements to local governments, she said. There’s ‘so much to deal with, with all the shortfalls and everything,’ Glover said. In a non broadcast meeting, council members will ‘be able to discuss what the needs are and put the (budget) philosophy together,’ she said. ‘We can be frank and honest.’ Glover said her intent is not to ‘hide’ from residents, whom state law allows to attend any council meeting, no matter where it’s held.
Her colleagues on the board say they don’t care whether meetings are televised, but they favor a different seating arrangement, at a conference table for instance, where they can address each other and city staff members face to face. ‘We can get around a conference table and talk to each other a lot easier than the table upstairs,’ Mayor Don Parrott said. Council members sit at a long, curved bench in the third-floor chambers. Parrott said he didn’t oppose televising meetings where council members hammer out budget details. ‘I think it’s very important that the public know what we ” re doing,’ he said. Mayor Pro Tem Ric Miller said he had ‘no opinion either way’ on televised workshops.
‘I think we ” re going to bore anybody to death, so I don’t know how many people would watch it anyway,’ he said. Echoing concerns expressed by the mayor, Miller said it ‘would suit me fine’ to meet in the first-floor conference room. ‘Just the layout of the council chamber is not conducive to a good, open workshop, I don’t think,’ he said. Councilwoman Pat Dunn said she’s oblivious to the television cameras when she’s in the midst of a council meeting. ‘I don’t think I’m affected one way or another by TV cameras,’ Dunn said.
‘I’m not conscious of the TV cameras, but some people may be.’ Dunn favored budget meetings ‘set up in a seminar type of environment,’ whether cameras are present or not. However, she praised the technology that ‘enables a lot of people to visit and see the meetings when their time schedule doesn’t allow for that.’ ‘Technology enables citizens to know more about their government.’ Councilman Ray Craft said he prefers the configuration suggested by Dunn, who sits on the opposite end of the council bench from him. ‘I don’t feel comfortable in that chamber,’ he said, describing the experience as ‘almost talking long distance: I’m on one end, Pat’s on the other.’ Budget meetings conducted in an informal atmosphere in the first-floor conference room would remedy that, he said. ‘If they want to move the cameras down there, that’s fine,’ Craft said.
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Councilman Chip Little said holding budget meetings in the conference room would ‘create a more question-and-answer, roll-up-your-sleeves’ atmosphere. ‘I don’t see us as trying to hide,’ he said. ‘It’s just getting us into a better work environment.’ The city began live broadcasts of City Council meetings in 1996. Meetings are taped and replayed on GTV. T. Scott Batchelor can be contacted at.