In a move towards governmental transparency and accessibility, all Monona city meetings will now be recorded and uploaded to the internet for public viewing.
Resolution 21-5-2196, passed unanimously at a May 17 city council meeting, mandates all city committees, boards, and commissions to record their meetings and upload those recordings to Monona Community Media’s YouTube page.
The resolution cites an increased difficulty for the general public to attend city meetings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the city council’s commitment to an, “open and transparent government,” as motivation for the decision.
Currently, a large majority of city meetings take place virtually on Zoom, with this new resolution set to expire once the pandemic recedes and the city returns to in-person meetings.
Discussions on whether or not the city should record and publicly upload all of its meetings to the internet have been ongoing for the last several months.
City Councilor Kristie Goforth, who helped draft the resolution under guidance from the city’s media committee, said recording and uploading city meetings is a no-brainer when it comes to community participation in local government.
“Thinking about these virtual meetings and how it’s really presented an opportunity for people to be more engaged and participating, if we can get more committee meetings on our YouTube channel, that provides a really nice opportunity for those who [can’t attend],” Goforth said at a council meeting earlier this year.
While Goforth has long been a vocal supporter of the idea, some council members have voiced reservations.
According to City Councilor Jennifer Kuhr, certain members of city committees have voiced they would feel uncomfortable knowing their meetings will be recorded and uploaded for public viewing.
“Certainly I’m for more transparency and making it more accessible for residents to engage in government… I have concerns with some of my committee members that they would not feel comfortable, and it may actually stifle conversation within the committee, knowing that it will be recorded and available to the entire community,” Kuhr said.
However, City Attorney William Cole said members of a governmental body have no right to privacy when attending or speaking at a public meeting.
“From a constitutional standpoint, there is no expectation of privacy in a public governmental meeting,” Cole said. “There is no obligation for us to warn people that they’re being recorded… it’s a public meeting, so anybody is free to record it as long as they’re not disrupting the meeting.”
It’s still unclear whether meeting recordings will continue when city meetings resume in-person, though City Administrator Bryan Gadow said he hopes the city will be back to meeting in-person by the end of the summer.