BELLEVILLE — Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden thinks the city is behind the times by not showing City Council meetings live on television and online.
Hayden, who's running for mayor in the April 9 election, said he started the effort when he first was alderman from 1994 to 1997 and questions why Mayor Mark Eckert hasn't brought the project to fruition.
But the other mayoral candidates, Eckert and Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore, have said they, too, want City Hall to be more accessible to residents.
"The more people who see these council meetings, the better off," Eckert said.
Eckert said the city has talked to Charter Communications about setting up such service, and Hayden and Elmore know why there are delays.
Eckert said there were problems connecting the fiber optic cables between City Hall and Lindenwood University, increasing the project estimate from $6,000 to $40,000.
The City Council voted in August to apply for a $6,000 matching grant to pay for the initial costs of the project, so Charter is working to resolve the issue to keep costs closer to the estimate, Eckert said.
A partnership with Lindenwood, which is opening a new communications center for students to get radio and television experience, would keep costs low, Eckert said.
Lindenwood representatives could not be reached for comment about when the center will open.
Hayden said Eckert, while waiting for the Lindenwood deal, could choose to provide a link on its website to video recordings of the meetings now.
Elmore said he, Hayden and other independent candidates took action to be more accessible and keep residents informed. They used their own money to create a website, www.bellevillealdermen.com, to share their views on city issues and post videos of city meetings.
Elmore said the website only features independent candidates because aldermen with the Good Government Party didn't embrace the project because it didn't have Eckert's blessing.
"The mayor's blessing wasn't vital for us to do something to communicate with the public," Elmore said.
Robert White, a candidate for Ward 6 alderman on Hayden's ticket, started to voluntarily record these videos for the independent aldermen. He also posts them at www.youtube.com/bellevilleweb.
Eckert said the city's website can't just refer to White's recordings because city officials are responsible for the quality and legitimacy of the videos.
Elmore, who is on the city's website redesign team, said he's making sure that the city's new website will be able to support live streaming. He hopes the city will have the service before the municipal election in April, but said it would be a priority for him if he's elected.
Elmore said he will also ask the council to review whether television broadcasts are needed if the service is available online.
"If the public enjoys it on Charter, we will keep it," Elmore said. "But not everybody has Charter cable. More people have the Internet at home."
Hayden said it should be both because not everyone has a computer.
Hayden said that when he was chairman of the council's Ad Hoc Cable TV Committee in 1996, he brought in Continental Cablevision to demonstrate the service. At the time, Hayden worked for the city of Ferguson, Mo., which showed its meetings live.
The city of O'Fallon has televised its meeting since 2001 and now provides the service through government access channels with Charter and AT&T. Live streaming is also available on the city's website.
O'Fallon Assistant City Administrator Pam Funk said residents pay a fee under the city's franchise agreement with the cable companies. The city has spent $250,000 over the years to build and upgrade a control room with cameras, microphones and a soundboard. Viewers can watch live broadcasts of meetings and bulletins when programs aren't running.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.