When Sauk Valley Media observes governments that don’t abide by transparency laws, we report the infractions in news stories and elaborate on our Opinion page.
Obedience to the Illinois Open Meetings Act and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, after all, is not optional.
Those laws are meant to ensure that governmental business is conducted in the open, where citizens can listen to the formulation of government policies, see how their tax dollars are spent, and gain access to public records.
Therefore, we think it’s noteworthy when a unit of government goes above and beyond the law in opening its activities to public scrutiny.
The Rock Falls City Council is one of those governments.
For more than 4 years, the city of Rock Falls has broadcast its City Council meetings on the Comcast cable system’s Channel 5.
Because of that decision, residents don’t have to attend meetings in person to watch the proceedings. They can tune in Channel 5, Rock Falls’ public access channel, at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month and watch Mayor David Blanton, City Clerk Bill Wescott, City Administrator Robbin Blackert, and council members in action.
Rock Falls is the only government we know of in the region that broadcasts its meetings live. While officials do not know how many people watch on TV, the city deserves credit for its commitment to transparency.
That commitment is about to become stronger.
This week, council members agreed to upgrade the equipment used for the public access channel. A new camera, recorder, computer software and hardware, and other items will be bought.
The new technology will allow the city to record live broadcasts of its meetings so they can be rebroadcast. It’s possible that city department heads will record public service announcements as well.
City residents who want to keep an eye on their government will have an even wider opportunity to do so.
The minimal cost – $5,055 – will be borne by Comcast customers who will pay an extra 16 cents a month for 12 months, starting May 1. That amounts to a total of only $1.92 per customer – basically pocket change.
We salute the city of Rock Falls and its leaders for their extra efforts to achieve transparency in government.
We urge other cities to follow Rock Falls’ example.
And we urge Rock Falls residents to tune in.