Stanton residents will be able to view City Council meetings live via Zoom beginning Dec. 1, despite reservations by some council members about public participation and the financial impact of broadcasting.
The Stanton City Council voted 4-0 in October, with Councilmember Gary Taylor absent, to proceed with the shift from audio-recorded meetings to televised meetings on Zoom through a 12-month pilot program.
The council discussed televising/broadcasting meetings in November 2021 and asked staff to research and return with a proposal to do so. Since June 2020, residents have had the option to livestream council meeting audio, listen to meeting audio recordings, or attend the meetings in person.
Most cities in Orange County currently broadcast their meetings and turned to virtual methods such as Zoom, Youtube and Facebook Live during the pandemic. Despite some concerns, Stanton City Council members decided to move forward with broadcasting meetings for the trial period, with Zoom adding little to no costs.
At its October meeting, the council approved the staff’s proposal to track the number of participants at each Zoom meeting, upload the meetings on the city’s YouTube channel and provide a report of participant data at the end of the 12-month trial, prior to investing financial resources to continue with the program in the future.
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Councilmember Carol Warren was in favor of the move.
“I think a test of Zoom is a good idea,” Warren said. “I think putting it on YouTube is fine as long as we promote it.”
Councilmember Hong Alyce Van agreed to proceed with the trial as well.
“It doesn’t really cost us anything because we already have a Zoom subscription in the city,” Van said. “Then, our staff could track the data, and in 12 months, we come back and decide whether or not it’s worth putting in more investment.”
Stanton city staff conducted preliminary research to find streaming options for broadcasting City Council meetings after the initial Zoom trial, along with the corresponding cost estimates for each, according to a staff report. The report includes estimates for installing the infrastructure, ranging from $28,000 to $120,000. It also includes the estimates for ongoing costs such as repairs and maintenance for the equipment, ranging from $4,000 to $31,000 annually, if needed.
Mayor Pro Tem Rigoberto Ramirez felt the fiscal impact was not worth the tradeoff to begin broadcasting council meetings.
“My concern is a $120,000 one-time hit, to benefit how many people?” Ramirez said. “Seriously, how many people are actually going to watch?”
Mayor David Shawver echoed Ramirez’s point, noting that there were no audience members or residents present at the current meeting.
Ramirez added, “I’ve always been a firm believer that if someone really has something to say, they can get in their car, drive a half a mile, spend three minutes and leave. We’ve done dozens of neighborhood meetings and hundreds of business meetings. Not once, that I remember, has someone said ‘Hey, why aren’t you broadcasting live?’ Never.”
According to research conducted by the Voice of OC, 31 of the 34 cities in Orange County currently broadcast their city council meetings live via video streaming platforms, with the exception of Stanton, La Palma and Rancho Santa Margarita, which offer audio livestreams of their meetings.
Funding for televising City Council meetings has not been included in Stanton’s budget for this fiscal year, according to the staff report. The council is expected to consider permanently implementing the Zoom program during the budget development process for the fiscal year 2024-25, if it deems that doing so will be beneficial for residents.