This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Aware that their daytime meetings are hard for working people to get to, the Salt Lake County Council is looking to become more accessible.
Council Chairman Richard Snelgrove quickly gained the support of his colleagues Tuesday when he suggested the council allow county residents to call in at the beginning of meetings if they have something on their minds.
"It comes down to several reasons," Snelgrove said, "number one being greater public participation, which is a good thing and leads to greater public accountability. … I believe the citizens of Salt Lake County will appreciate the additional avenues available to them."
The council sets aside time at the start of its formal council meetings at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and at the preceding work session, whose starting time varies.
But to comment, you have to be there in person. It's rare when anyone shows up to speak outside of Sandy resident Steve Van Maren, who regularly attends council meetings and periodically makes suggestions, and Marion Cox, who is trying to raise money for a monument to honor his pioneer ancestors.
So Snelgrove thought it would be good to add the call-in option. The technology is available to make it work, he said, and the costs would be insignificant.
Why not allow people to send in emails, too, asked longtime Councilman Jim Bradley, noting "I've always been concerned about the remoteness of County Council meetings because of the time of day that they're held."
"Anything that eases communication between the public and this body is good," he added. "We learn more from the public about their concerns and we send the message we're interested in their concerns."
Councilman Steve DeBry backed the idea as well, but he had some concerns about implementing it. "I'm all about accountability and accessibility and transparency," he said. "But I want to know more about the particulars before we give it a thumbs up."
In addition, Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton wants county attorneys to review the council's legal liability "if our equipment wasn't working and somebody couldn't call in. Could they sue us? I want to look at the legal aspects of opening ourselves up."
So the council is going to form a subcommittee, which will come back to the full body in mid-November with recommendations on how to initiate the effort.
Van Maren, by the way, told the council in its public- comment period that he thought emails would work better than phone calls. But what would be best, he added, is if the council proceeded with a once-discussed but never implemented idea of live-streaming council meetings on the Internet.
"That will increase access," Van Maren said.