Newark City Council members seem to agree that it would be nice to televise council's committee meetings so that residents could see the whole legislative process.

Newark City Council members seem to agree that it would be nice to televise council's committee meetings so that residents could see the whole legislative process.

Councilman David Rhodes raised the issue Feb. 23 during council's service committee meeting. Currently, the twice-monthly council meetings are televised on cable channel 19. The meetings are held the first and third Mondays of the month.

Rhodes said he has heard criticism from people who watch the meetings. They say many council members seem like "bobble heads," nodding in agreement to legislation with little or no discussion. That's because much of the actual discussion about legislation occurs in committee meetings, held the second and fourth Mondays of each month, he said. He said that during committee meetings, council members discuss proposed legislation and suggest changes before a final draft is presented to council during regular meetings. Many of the council members voice their opinions and objections to proposed legislation during the committee meetings, often prompting change in the legislation.

"People don't understand the legislative process," Rhodes said.

The city currently has funding to televise 16 meetings this year, with funding provided by Park National Bank and the Energy Cooperative. Each entity donated $2,000, and the cost to televise each meeting is about $250, said Councilman Don Ellington, chairman of council's service committee.

Ellington said the city pays Newark High School's broadcast students to tape the meetings, which then are televised on the public access channel.

Rhodes suggested televising one council meeting and one committee meeting monthly, but several council members said that might make the meetings more confusing.

Council member Carol Floyd said if council agrees to do that, people would see some legislation passed during the one televised council meeting but would not get to see the final vote on other pieces of legislation voted on during the second untelevised meeting that month.

"That could really look like we don't know what we're doing," Ellington said.

Floyd and Ellington later mentioned another issue: the way committee meetings are operated.

"I think showing people committee meetings would be interesting, but we'd have to be a little more structured," Ellington said.

Floyd agreed, saying many people who speak during committee meetings don't go to the podium and identify themselves while speaking into a microphone. She said that would have to change because no one watching the televised committee meeting would be able to hear a person who didn't speak into a microphone.

Law director Doug Sassen said the issue is one that should be addressed by council's rules committee, which Floyd chairs. Floyd said that on Monday she would call a meeting of the rules committee to discuss the issue. Ellington is vice chair of the committee, and Councilman John Uible is the third committee member.

"I think it's something we'll discuss, but I don't see us doing any legislation right away," Floyd said.

Ellington agreed: "In these economic times, I think we'd be hard-pressed to take money out of the budget right now to do that."

Ellington felt strongly enough about televising meetings that he used the issue in his campaign for council president and used his own money to pay to televise meetings at that time. He said it would be great for council to find enough sponsors to televise committee meetings and council meetings, but the economy might hinder that effort.

"Even sponsorships are hard to find now," he said.

Sassen said it might be difficult for the city to have more public-access time, as the city no longer negotiates its own contract with cable for television access. He said state laws changed a year ago, and fees and conditions are now controlled by the state.

The Newark broadcast students are members of the broadcast journalism program, run through the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County (C-TEC). Students meet at Newark High School for classes and work at the channel 19 studio at The Works in downtown Newark. The school negotiates contracts with entities for coverage. Funds then may be used by students in the program for educational purposes.