July 12, 2023
RE: Recording Board and Commission Meetings Dear City Councilmembers,
At the Saturday July 8th meeting of the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights Steering Committee, the Steering Committee members and all SMRR general members in attendance unanimously voted to urge the City Council to require videotaping or audiotaping of all board and commission meetings, and placement of the recordings on the City’s website for public access.
Recording meetings was the ubiquitous practice before the pandemic. There is no reason that this past minimum standard is no longer being met. While perhaps only the Planning Commission had video recording pre-pandemic, the remaining boards and commissions had audio recordings that at least in some instances (e.g., the Housing Commission) were posted on the City’s website. Given advances in technology and the simplicity of uploading files, making recordings and posting them on the City’s website for public access is relatively simple and inexpensive.
As you know, anyone in attendance at a board or commission meeting is allowed to record the proceedings. And any recordings in the City’s possession are subject to the Public Records Act. But this is inadequate for the process of open government and a common understanding of what was said at a public meeting. There must be an authentic and authoritative tape for reference.
The Steering Committee members and general SMRR members present also voted unanimously to ask City Council to 1) get current on past board and commission meeting minutes as soon as possible and make them publicly available on the City’s website as well (this is especially important because so many boards and commissions are backlogged on their minutes and there is no recording available) and 2) create meeting minutes for all board and commission meetings going forward and make them publicly available on the City’s website. While brief minutes are no substitute for a recording of the meeting, they are an invaluable aid to the public in terms of quickly identifying the issues actually discussed and the decisions actually taken at each meeting.
Some members noted that at least as far back as 1983 board and commission meetings were taped by the staff liaison on a cassette recorder and minutes prepared. We must continue this tradition of good governance immediately—especially as advances in technology have made it so much easier for our government to be transparent with the public.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Denny Zane, Co-Chair, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights
Mike Soloff, Co-Chair, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights