Charleston City Council has voted to have its meetings televised, despite some concerns that it could lead to political theatrics.
Councilmen William Dudley Gregorie, Jimmy Gallant and Tim Mallard have been leading a push to televise the meetings. The city has been evaluating options that would work in the historic Council Chambers in City Hall.
Under the city's franchise agreement with Comcast, the cable operator will provide one camera and a camera operator, and will air the meeting coverage at no charge to the city. Council members considered spending an estimated $80,000 to increase the number of cameras and the audio quality, but a majority on council Tuesday opposed spending any funds.
The dozen City Council desks are arranged in a horseshoe shape, with the open side facing a podium where Mayor Joe Riley presides, so filming a meeting with a single camera poses challenges because some members' backs would always be toward the camera.
Councilman Aubry Alexander said he thinks that broadcasting the meetings is a fine idea, but not if it involves spending money during a year when employees are being furloughed because of budget cuts.
"If there's some alternative goal, and people need face-time, I'm not willing to spend $80,000 to support that," he said.
Gregorie said televising the meetings is hopefully not about council members being seen but about giving the public more access to proceedings.
Councilman Louis Waring cast the lone vote against proceeding with Comcast's free one-camera option. He said he's apprehensive that "some of our political pontificators on council" would grandstand.
The start date for the broadcasts has not been set.