Nancy Oates headshotNancy Oates.
How ironic that the Transportation Advisory Board requests permission for its members to avoid traveling to meetings.
In a petition scheduled to be presented to Town Council at its Jan. 14 meeting, Transportation Board chair Michael Parker posits that participation in the volunteer board member positions would increase if members didn’t have to actually go to the meetings, but instead could Skype themselves in. Using an electronic tool such as Skype or WebEx would be cost-effective, he says. For whom?
Because there’s this matter of Open Meeting Laws – the reason you never see more than four council members together in a room unless it is an official council meeting – you’d have to find a way for the public to view any Skype session. I’m trying to picture this: On the dais in the Town Hall auditorium, we have a ring of laptops set up for 10 of the 12 members. Two unlucky members would have to attend in person, or members could take turns calling in sick (How does that improve participation?). The cameraman wouldn’t be able to broadcast the images from the laptops, so any citizen wanting to follow what was going on at these virtual meetings would have to travel to Town Hall to sit in the audience.
Who saves money with this arrangement? And if board members can afford a computer and the fee for Skype, why balk at a dollar or two at most for gas? The parking is free.
Do Transportation Board members have such a cliquish view of themselves and such a vaunted opinion of their expertise that to retain cream-of-the-crop members they have to throw in such perks as being able to attend meetings in their jammies or while multitasking on their elliptical trainers?
Here’s a suggestion: Recruit members sufficiently enthused about transportation issues that they’ll haul themselves off the couch and go to the meetings.
And if the cost of attending an advisory board meeting feels prohibitively expensive to a member, he or she could give up a latte a month. Isn’t that the Chapel Hill Way? TW
The author, who is a freelance writer, started the Chapel Hill Watch blog in 2009. She lives near the long-awaited Carolina North campus. The weekly Town Council meeting is her favorite TV series.