Reversing course, Prairie Village city council approves live-streaming of meetings

Prairie Village will begin live-streaming of its council meetings.
Prairie Village will begin live-streaming of its council meetings.

After months of debate, the Prairie Village city council on Monday approved a new initiative to live-stream and archive video of its meetings.

Resurrecting the practice of the city producing a broadcast of its meetings became a priority for Ward 2 councilwoman Serena Schermoly shortly after she joined the governing body last year. For the past several months, Schermoly has taken it upon herself to have friends and family stream the council’s proceedings via Facebook Live. The practice of producing a broadcast of the meetings had long precedent in the city. Between 1976 and 1997, Prairie Village produced a public access broadcast of its meetings.

Under the resolution approved by the council on Monday, the city will invest $3,500 in equipment and a one-year subscription to a live stream provider’s service to make city council committee of the whole, city council, and planning commission meetings available online.

The council had rejected a motion in May that would have allocated $8,000 to live-streaming.

On Monday, the council voted 8-2 in favor of the lower-cost option. Councilmembers Ted Odell and Brooke Morehead cast the dissenting votes. Morehead indicated she had heard from a number of residents “from the swimming pool, to stopping on the street” who had said they were thankful the city did not allow live-streaming of meetings. Morehead said her primary concern with the idea of broadcasting the recordings of meetings was that it might discourage residents from speaking to the council in open forum because they would be uncomfortable knowing their remarks would reach a large audience.

Councilwoman Jori Nelson said in her discussion with residents about the idea of live-streaming the proceedings, she had heard no such concerns.

“I have not met one person who has been against the live streaming,” Nelson said.

Tucker Poling, a Ward 3 resident who is the only candidate running for the seat currently occupied by Eric Mikkelson, addressed the council before the vote and said he believed that a city-produced and -promoted broadcast would help increase participation in civic affairs.

“Information is the threshold for engagement,” Poling said. “People cannot contact you — whether it’s by email, phone, however they are comfortable doing so — if they don’t first have the information. There are issues I didn’t know I cared about until I started watching the live streaming and coming to the meetings.”

DeSoto, Mission and Olathe are the only other cities currently live-streaming meetings online in Johnson County.

Prairie Village hopes to have the council chamber equipment upgrades completed to allow for the start of live-streaming by late this fall.