If only we knew it was so easy to get the village council and members of its studio audience to behave and be so cordial and civil to each other, we would have brought a video camera to the meetings a year ago. Actually, had we known, we would have brokered the deal to have them broadcast on cable long ago.
It seems, based on the one-time evidence of Monday evening’s inaugural taping, that a TV camera had an interesting effect in making the first meeting less prone to divisiveness, taunting and interruptions. Our best guess is that this is the effect of knowing that every word, movement, facial expression and inflection has the potential to be broadcast to anyone who cares to sit in front of their television set and watch one to two hours of village hall in action … on a Friday … at noon.
To be fair, not all meetings in the past have devolved into shouting matches and the council passes most motions with a unanimous vote. However, when they get into it, they really do get into it, as evidenced by some of the more recent meetings.
And the taunting is not always from the council members.
The camera not only had a calming, if not sweetening, effect on the council, it also seemed to sedate the usually rowdy and vocal audience.
So, in the interest of continued civility, here is a laundry list of things that the camera seemed to take away on June 13 that we hope never come back:
Gone … the mayor admonishing audience members for asking questions they legitimately have a right to know the answers to
Gone … the audience hissing at the mayor when he speaks
Gone … the mayor making snide comments directed towards the audience and specific audience members who have been recording the meetings
Gone … accusations of violations of the Open Meetings Act and snide banter amongst council members
Gone … angry stares, smirks, knowing smiles and general hostility between the left and the right on the council
And may we never see them again.
Unfortunately, the early effect wasn’t necessarily all good.
Healthy discussion is important and a council where nobody speaks out when in disagreement, for fear of the camera, is not in the best interest of the town. We only hope that healthy discussion is engendered whilst the civility imposed by the presence of cameras in the hall continues.
So here is the beginning of a new era at Village Hall and to the hope that it continues to be a cordial one.