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On videotaping meetings

The school board members who voted against the division videotaping their meetings and making recordings available to the public last Wednesday dealt a blow to open government.

We commend Dr. Wilkie Chaffin, Dr. Timothy W. Corbett Sr. and Dr. Chapman Hood Frazier, who voted in favor of the motion to allow the recordings, for attempting to shed more light on the operations and governance of the school board rather than keeping their constituents who are unable to access documents, information or attend the meetings in the dark.

Moreover, we commend Chaffin for urging his fellow board members to be more open and accessible.

Before the motion, Chaffin said videotaping the meetings may encourage public participation.

We agree with Chaffin in that making the videotapes public would encourage public interest.

For several reasons, we wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Peter Gur, who noted that those interested in what the school board was doing could attend the meetings.

First, the school board meetings are held in the afternoons at a time which parents and most citizens are working to support their families. Secondly, even if the entire meetings were during the early evening hours, many parents work night and evening jobs, preventing them from attending meetings. Many who are interested may not have the means to attend meetings, or access to the internet for that matter.

“Maybe this is another way to get more out to the public about what we’re doing here,” Chaffin said during last week’s meeting.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, is a state law that gives you the right to obtain government information in Virginia. That means access to open meetings and recording them, whether it be with a camera, cell phone or a video recorder. You can take all the photos you want, all the audio you want or all the video you want, just as we do when we attend these meetings. We hope interested citizens who have the means of videotaping the meetings will do so since some board members seem to be opposed to increased transparency.