SAN MARCOS — After months of deliberation, the Palomar College Governing Board has put the kibosh on doing a video livestream of its meetings. At least for now.
The Governing Board made the decision to strike down the proposal at its May 28 meeting in a 3-2 vote, with board members Nina Deerfield and Norma Miyamoto voting in favor. The majority, after hearing testimony from Palomar Television Director Jim Odom, concluded that filming the meetings would currently be too prohibitively expensive and logistically inconvenient.
“I’ve been involved in streaming board meetings at various sites in different locations, so I have some experience with it,” said Odom. “Given the way the board meetings are conducted at this point in time, in this room, could we do it easily in a way that would give a quality presentation for streaming or broadcasting? My opinion of that is no.”
Odom also explained that the current room in which meetings are held is “not conducive to a good broadcast or streaming.”
“We have recorded in this room before, but it’s always been one camera, one speaker and that works pretty well,” said Odom. “But to do a board meeting, tonight’s a good example, where we’ve had 10 different speakers already in different locations. That creates a lot of challenges and essentially, you’d have to have about four cameras in this room to do that well.”
He also cited the poor quality of the lighting in the room as another ingredient for poor video quality, if not corrected for. If corrected, including paying for better lighting and installation of four cameras, Odom said it would cost Palomar College about $50,000 for installation costs alone. He added that about three to four people to staff it would also have to be accounted for.
In response to the presentation, Miyamoto suggested that other rooms within the college be investigated, which could be better equipped for filming board meetings. Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake responded by noting that, though the budget does not exist for it yet, eventually the room could be equipped for filming meetings as part of a broader renovation process.
Board member Mark Evilsizer, responding to the dialogue, said he believed that the college was not yet technically or financially ready to proceed with filming Governing Board meetings. But he expressed hope that it could happen in the near-future.
“There’s money or facilities improvements planned out there, but we just don’t have it right now,” said Evilsizer.
But Deerfield said she supported the proposal under the banner of opening up the meetings to a broader swath of the general public who may not be able to make meetings in-person.
“We are completely isolated with everyone who does not live right here,” said Deerfield. “And this would just bring in the community, bring in much more shared governance, much more interest in what Palomar is doing and long-term, that would help bring in more people.”
Blake said that in the meantime, the college would do an investigation of other rooms potentially more well-equipped for filming meetings as alternatives to the current one in which they are held.
In other neighboring cities, live-streaming of local government meetings costs run between $12,000 per year on the low end to about $60,000 per year on the high end, according to budget documents reviewed by The Coast News. In Vista, live-streaming of City Council meetings cost $12,000, according to its 2017-2018 budget, while in Escondido it cost $60,254 during that same budget cycle. Sitting in between, the city of San Marcos paid the company Granicus a $20,000 line item during the 2018-2019 budgetary cycle.
Teresa Laughlin, the co-president of the Palomar Faculty Federation union and an economics professor, expressed discouragement with the vote.
“I am disappointed that the board abandoned the idea of live-streaming the board meetings or at the very least making the audiotape available online,” said Laughlin. “This administration is quick to hire consultants, but is not quick to make a reasonable accommodation for our deaf and hard of hearing community. For example, the district chose to hire a consultant to facilitate a board retreat on June 28. I wonder how many Governing Board meetings could have been live-streamed with the cost of that one consultant.”