Council meetings less yawn worthy

Meetings are now online, and you can click on just the part you want to see.

Published September 10, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Other than the moments reserved for broad-gesturing public comment, City Council meetings typically are bland episodes.

But last week's regular meeting provided a goose bump moment for council member Richard Kriseman.

Technology did the trick.

For the first time, City Council meetings became available on the Internet.

You can click them up live.

You can do it after the fact, 24/7.

If you're interested in a particular piece of business and don't care to wade through an entire meeting, you can click on a particular agenda item and the segment will boot up for you.

Kriseman pushed for the process, known as "streaming video," for about three years. Mayor Rick Baker noted its inaugural at the start of Thursday's meeting.

Council members can't have Internet access during meetings, but the city's legal team can. City Attorney John Wolfe watched on his laptop, and Kriseman, at one point, came to peer over his shoulder.

"It was exciting," he said. I just got goose bumps."

Kriseman said it means several good things for residents.

Watching meetings in real time via computer is the obvious one. Another is that speakers scheduled to come before council can time their appearance instead of coming at the beginning of a meeting and waiting.

For the time being, only council meetings will be available on the Internet. Later, meetings of other city boards may be added, said Muslim Gadiwalla, the city's chief information officer.

The estimated cost of the service is $25,000 for hardware installation and $1,000 a month to operate.

Here's how you call it up:

Go to www.stpete.org. Click on the WSPF-TV logo in the lower right hand corner. Click on the council meeting of your choice. On the next screen, a viewing frame will appear on the left. It can take a few minutes to load. You can fast forward or simply jump to any part of the meeting by using the drop-down box below the frame. A meeting agenda is on the right side of the page.