Friday, August 17, 2007

Sun Valley looks to promote discourse

Council chamber improvements focus on improving audience comfort, involvement

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi, left, former City Councilwoman Ann Agnew and Mayor Jon Thorson discuss city issues in the council chambers last March. Improvements to the room will feature a large projection screen on the wall behind the City Council and another on the wall to the right of the council?additions the city hopes lend to more productive discussions. Photo by David N. Seelig

In an effort to further promote effective and productive public discourse, the city of Sun Valley on Wednesday approved spending $25,000 for renovations to the meeting chamber in City Hall.


"The current set-up leads to lousy, hostile discussions," City Councilman Nils Ribi said in an interview.

Changes include adding two projectors that will be clearly visible to both council members and citizens in attendance, and a podium wired for a microphone and PowerPoint computer presentations. In addition, the council chamber will receive new paint, carpet, chairs, window coverings and tables.

Community Development Director Mark Hofman said in an interview that the technological improvements are scheduled to be in place by the end of September. He said the remaining aesthetic improvements will follow.

In an eleventh-hour change, Ribi and Hofman met Wednesday morning to discuss the necessity of the original plans, which called for three plasma-screen televisions.

"We went back to simplicity," Ribi said. "And we went back to what's really needed."

He said the original staff that set out to work on chamber improvements, several of whom are no longer with the city, "were of the mind-frame that we needed the newest, cutting-edge technology ... and that's not the case."

Ribi went on to say that the large projector screens will, in fact, be more accommodating to citizens in attendance and compared to the extremely expensive plasmas, represent a fraction of the cost.

"We really hope to come in below budget on this one," he said.

The podium with microphone is also the first step toward a long-term goal of the city to videotape and then broadcast all City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meetings on the city's Web site to allow citizens to view proceedings in real time or when their schedule allows.

The microphone ensures that presentations will come across with the sound quality necessary for Internet dissemination. The podium should eliminate the need for the city to hire a camera crew because all presenters will be in a set location, allowing a fixed camera to catch all the action.

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