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Chicago City Council goes live on the Internet

Submitted on Thu, 09/27/2007 – 14:28.
Story by Michael Pasternak
Today for the first time in history, the Chicago City Council meeting can be seen live online. The council’s Rules and Ethics Committee Wednesday passed a resolution allowing meetings of the full 50-member body to be broadcast, from the Finance Committee’s Web site.

“It’s about time,” said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) after the meeting. “People should know what we’re doing.”

Chicago City Council, which first introduced a resolution to broadcast its proceedings in 2004, joins New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities that allow people to view city government proceedings.

New York City Council meetings are archived on the Internet dating back to 2002. In Philadelphia and Minneapolis, city council Web sites provide streaming videos of the past year’s meetings.

“I think it brings us into the 21st century,” said Ald. Edward Burke (14th), chairman of the Finance Committee and vice chairman of the Rules and Ethics Committee, who has been an alderman since 1968.

“It opens up a whole new way of communicating with the people of Chicago,” Burke said.

The Chicago City Council’s new live online audio/video feed is modeled after the one used for Illinois House of Representatives meetings in Springfield, said Ald. Margaret Laurino (39th).

Illinois General Assembly meetings are broadcast over the Internet using downloadable software. The audio/video capabilities are activated when the session actually begins, according to the General Assembly’s Web site, and the proceedings are recorded and archived on DVD by the House Clerk.

Laurino said the online feed is just the first step to more public access of City Council matters.

“Right now, we’re just doing City Council meetings,” said Laurino. “In the future, I see potentially committee meetings.”

Three cameras are set up in the council chambers; two face the aldermen’s 50 seats and the third points at the chair occupied by Mayor Richard Daley when he attends meetings. The cost of the equipment was reported to be $100,000. Online viewers will see only the person speaking; the cameras will not pan the chambers or focus on aldermen or others that are not speaking.

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), who chairs the Rules and Ethics Committee, said that when cameras are first turned on for the Internet audience, his fellow aldermen might play up for the cameras, making the council meetings longer.

“There’s a run on Armani suits,” joked Mell. “I think we’ll have an opportunity to see more thespians than ever before.”

Burke said the City Council has come a long way with its access to the public.

“I’ve been here long enough to remember when the television cameras were not permitted to broadcast the meetings,” said Burke.

The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., with a population of less than 75,000, televises its local council meetings live on Evanston Cable Channel 16.

To watch the Streaming City Council meetings, please visit:

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