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Suffolk Legislature eyes broadcasting its meetings

Police Commissioner Edward Webber addresses the Suffolk County

Police Commissioner Edward Webber addresses the Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday before they voted unanimously for an agreement between police and federal officials to overhaul police practices in minority communities in Hauppauge. (Dec. 17, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County legislative meetings and hearings would be broadcast online for the first time under a proposal by Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory.

Gregory said Monday he wants to webcast online video of the county's proceedings by the end of this summer. It would end the blackout of county meetings, for which only audio feeds are provided.

"It's 2014," Gregory (D-Amityville) said. "It's time to do it."

The live video would be available through the county's website, he said. There would be a one-time $150,000 cost to install cameras in Hauppauge and Riverhead hearing rooms Gregory said.

"We need to open up and make our proceedings as accessible as we can," he said. He also wants to schedule some budget hearings at night, so the public has more of a chance to weigh in.

Many Long Island towns and villages have outpaced Suffolk County government in televising their meetings live and posting video archives on their websites.

So while constituents can watch the Smithtown Zoning Board of Appeals or Southampton Village's architectural review board, deliberations of the county legislature can only be witnessed in person.

Nassau County streams its meetings live on its website.

Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said he supports the initiative, though he'd like to see the meetings broadcast on public access television as well.

The Suffolk audio streams of the meetings, available on the county website, are hard to follow for residents who aren't political insiders, Kennedy said.

"For 99 percent of constituents, it does no good," he said. "It's unreasonable to say we're fulfilling our responsibility for providing transparency."

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