2006-11-24 / Front Page

Simi Valley City Council meetings now available online

Program makes it possible to view agenda items of interest
By Kyle Jorrey kjorrey@theacorn.com

To borrow a term from the world of computers, Simi Valley City Council meetings just got a lot more user-friendly.

Starting Nov. 13, council meetings are being streamed live onto the Internet via the city's home page (www.simivalley.org), making it possible to view the proceedings from anywhere with access to the World Wide Web.

Mark Oyler, an administrative officer who works in the city manager's office, helped set up the new webcast, which uses the same cameras that capture the meetings for cable television viewers.

Oyler's excitement over the city's latest technological step is apparent, never mind that it's given his coworkers and himself some extra responsibilities.

"It's going to be a fascinating enhancement to all the residents who want to view the meetings. No matter where you're at, anywhere in the world, you can stream it live from the website," Oyler said, adding, "It gives government another level of transparency."

Visitors to the city's website need only click on the "City Council Meeting" link under the title Agendas on the left side of the page. This will take them directly to the page where the streaming video can be accessed, Oyler explained.

Once there, users can view footage of a live meeting or watch video of an old one complete with an accompanying agenda and corresponding staff reports, all of which can be accessed at the click of a button.

"(People) can go on any time and review the agenda and all the staff reports associated with it. They can print them so they don't have to come by city hall and buy hard copies, which is what a number of people do," Oyler said.

In what is perhaps its most useruseful capability, the new program offers access to archived videos, which the city will make available by noon the day after a meeting.

Thanks to a program powered by streaming media solution provider Granicus, users can skip ahead to the part of the meeting they're interested in by simply clicking on the item in the corresponding agenda, thereby eliminating frustration for civic-minded residents who don't want to sit through a three-hour meeting to hear a 30-minute discussion.

"Those individuals interested in issues that are brought before the City Council no longer have to make sure and tune in live the whole time; they can see archived videos of items and be able to skip right to the item they are interested in. They avoid having to look at lengthy parts of the agenda they don't care about," Oyler said.

The cost of the new Web streaming is $1,500 a month, said Oyler, a fee paid to Granicus for hosting the service. The fee is based on population: Moorpark, for example, which also uses Granicus technology, pays less per month.

Although Simi Valley trailed cities like Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills when it came to streaming its meetings online, Oyler said it's better late than never.

"Residents are really going to enjoy this," Oyler said.

Harry VanDyck, a local CPA and Chamber member, already has.

"This is a wonderful (program), it makes it possible for people who can't make it to the meetings to review what happened, and it's very organized," VanDyck said. "The agenda, the staff reports, are right there."

VanDyck, who said he regularly attends council meetings on behalf of the Chamber, said if he wanted to review a staff report in the past he would have to go to the public library, find it, and then flip through what can be stacks of pages.

"Now all of that information is available on-line from the comfort of your own home," he said.

To try out the new technology, visit www.simivalley.org. Minimum system requirements are available as is the procedure to download the necessary no-cost media player.

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