A blow to transparency

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fresh off a public-relations debacle in the controversial permitting of a South Main Street apartment complex,  Farmville Town Council should be working overtime to reassure citizens of its commitment to transparency.

Instead, council has taken a step backward by allowing staff to end the practice of making audio recordings of public meetings.

The town’s muddled logic — that audio recordings cause inefficiency in preparation of minutes by the town clerk — completely misses the point of recording meetings in the first place. Citizens, who cannot physically attend every meeting, deserve a complete archive of what their elected officials say and do.

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Audio recording and archiving is easier than ever in this digital age. So is dissemination. A council committed to transparency not only would make the recordings, it would routinely put them on the town’s website for easy access by citizens. Technology being what it is — increasingly cheaper and simpler — council should go a step further and also video record its meetings. Meetings could be live-streamed online and archived on the website for later viewing.

Elected officials who have nothing to hide should welcome a complete record of their actions and deliberations. By ending simple audio recordings of meetings where the people’s business is conducted, Farmville officials have sent the opposite message to a skeptical citizenry.