Officials in Wellfleet Considering Proposal to Tape More Public Meetings

WELLFLEET – Selectmen in Wellfleet are considering adopting a policy that would require video recordings of all policymaking regulatory board meetings.

Media operations manager for the town, Mia Baumgarten, proposed the policy which would include all town regulatory boards in Channel 18’s video recording roster.

The Conservation Commission, the Planning Board, the Board of Health, and the Board of Water Commissioners’ meetings are currently not being taped.

The proposal would help many of the town’s working residents who may not be able to attend the meetings in person stay up to date.

“Regulatory boards by definition make decisions which effect Wellfleet’s land use, tax payer revenue, public bylaws, long term plans, or some combination thereof, if a citizen is not able to attend in person the only substitute is watching an unedited recording,” said Baumgarten.  

“In 2019 given the constraints of schedules, geography, and socioeconomics not allowing access to information via TV or the internet is the prohibition of public access.”              

Critics of the proposal have argued that nobody cares enough to watch the meetings if they are recorded and that it will influence process or decisions being made.

They have also stated that the meetings are already open to the public.

Baumgarten refuted these points, “We now record 11 distinct boards and committees (in Wellfleet) in addition to some other meetings of community importance and since January 1st, our total media views are at 99,298.”    

Some select board members expressed concern over requiring every regulatory board meeting to be taped, stating that running a meeting with cameras on can be intimidating and that it should be up to the boards if they want to be filmed.

They also stated that taping the meetings may discourage people from running for office, something that Wellfleet has struggled with in the past.

Not all board members were against the proposal however, with some saying that being on camera holds the members accountable and that eventually board members get comfortable being recorded.

If the policy is passed, a few non-regulatory boards that are currently recorded would be dropped to create space for the regulatory boards to be filmed.

Wellfleet is currently one of three towns on Cape Cod that does not have a policy or mandate about public access channel guidelines and is the only town that does not tape its Planning Board meetings.

While supporters of both sides got to argue their points, the Selectboard decided not to make a decision on the policy at their recent meeting so that they could gather input from committees and look into possible issues with closed captioning and other technical functions.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.
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