BY OLIVIA POOLE—
The village board published their first video recording of a meeting on their YouTube page on Aug. 19.
Allison Rozek, village trustee and local business owner, was a strong influence in the board’s decision to start recording meeting. Rozek has 20 years of experience in different government agencies and is the chair of the public safety committee, in addition to being on the budget and finance committee and the business relations committee.
“Most people can’t attend meetings because of conflicts in life, school, work, babysitters, personal conflicts, so we wanted video recordings because when you read the meeting minutes, a lot is left out. In an hour’s worth of discussion, the meeting minutes might be only two paragraphs,” Rozek said.
The electorate also lacked information in the meeting minutes, such as which trustee voted for an item. Instead, just the vote tally was recorded. Who voted for what is important information to a voter wondering which candidates support which issues.
“When I got on the board, the process was taking much longer than most board members desired, so that was what I pushed for,” Rozek said.
Before Rozek joined the board, Tammy Bockhorst, village trustee and member of public safety, budget and finance boards, was also pushing for video recordings.
“It offers a level of transparency for those who wish to have a better understanding of what happens at the municipal level because they can’t make meetings, as sometimes they start at 5:30 p.m. and aren’t done until 11:30 at night. It gives people an opportunity to stay informed, become informed and participate with everyone’s busy schedules,” Bockhorst said.
The school board’s recent decision to video record meetings sparked some of the interest in pursuing a similar option for the village board.
“I’d been contacted by community members, and the school board was moving in that direction so we looked into it and found out it would be more cost and time efficient to just get our own system. We allocated the money in the budget last year for this, $5,000, and then this past spring the committee completed their research and presented the option we ended up choosing to the board,” Bockhorst said.
Recording meetings brings up a few concerns.
“Legitimate concerns include that recording meetings makes them go longer because then elected officials feel the need to justify everything they say when their constituencies are watching and anything can be reused in an election,” Rozek said.
Bockhorst raised another concern.
“A concern brought to our attention from leaders of other municipalities is that people can be prone to grandstanding because they know they’re on videotape, as well as you find people who won’t speak up because they’re camera shy,” Bockhorst said.
Both trustees agree that the community fully supported the decision; the delay came from the difficulty of getting it on the agenda to be voted on.
“I don’t see any negative ramifications in recording the meetings. Now, if there’s an issue I’m concerned about and I can’t make the meeting, I can access the information I need,” said Jennifer Essak, resident.
Rozek hopes to continue pushing for greater transparency on the village board.
“The most important thing is you never want to stop and be satisfied where you’re at, especially in terms of public involvement. The village document center isn’t as transparent as it should be and there’ should be some kind of platform for the constituents to communicate with the board members other than on their own time,” Rozek said.
The decision to record meeting sets Shorewood in sync with many other communities.
“Many municipalities on the state and national level create either a video or voice recording of their meetings so I’m glad we’ve moved in this direction to join many others,” Bockhorst said.