Editorial: Public should feel the council’s noise | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: Public should feel the council’s noise

Two of the hallmarks of good government are transparency and accessibility — airing the taxpayers’ business in public and providing the public with information upon request.

Some critics of local government have contended that Aspen City Hall sometimes (or often, depending upon whom you ask) fails on both counts. We aren’t going to rehash those complaints or comment on them in this space. Our beef is related, but a lot simpler: The City Council’s meeting room, in the basement of City Hall, needs some sort of audio-system overhaul, because it can be quite difficult to hear our elected officials and city staff when they speak.

While this might seem like a petty gripe from a reporter who’s listened to too much AC/DC over the years, there’s more to it than that. During regular meetings and work sessions, members of the public regularly have had to shout (out of turn) to ask council members to speak louder. That’s because the voices into the microphones aren’t amplified adequately through the room’s speaker system. Basically, what you hear in the room is the soft volume at which the officials tend to speak. So if a council member or city staffer is mumbling, using a low whisper or talking with a monotone pitch — which is the norm — those comments are lost on the rest of the audience.

For more than two years, we’ve been told that the city is “working on the problem,” which is said to have something to do with the audio system on which Community GrassRoots TV relies. If the public-address system in the room were turned up to a comfortable but amplified volume for the audience, then feedback might occur, causing problems for the TV audio. That might be the case, but we would argue that those who attend the meetings in person shouldn’t be made to suffer for the benefit of the TV audience. Some of the Aspen meetings aren’t carried live on GrassRoots because sessions of the Snowmass Village Town Council regularly pre-empt coverage of the meetings at 130 S. Galena St.

Really, it’s silly for us to have to point out all of this in an editorial. The problem could have been solved months or even years ago. The city has the money — we can’t imagine it costing much — to remedy the situation. There are three new council members in place, one holdover from the last version of the council and a new mayor, and we have the right to hear everything they have to say without requiring hearing aids.

The request is polite and simple. Pump up the volume, pretty please — either with your voices or electronically. Good government depends on it.

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