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Suffolk Legislature to begin live streaming of meetings

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) sponsored the bill

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) sponsored the bill to live stream Suffolk County Legislature meetings. The bill passed in June. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Live from Hauppauge. The Suffolk County Legislature Tuesday night will premiere real-time streaming of its meetings via computer so residents can watch the often-marathon sessions from home.

"This is an important step . . . to make county government as transparent as possible," said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), sponsor of the measure, which was approved in June. To gain access, viewers can go to the county legislature's website -- legis.suffolkcountyny.gov

Gregory plans to publicize the streaming with civic groups, schools and local media outlets and hopes to air public service announcements to alert residents to the video streaming. He added that the legislature will make the link available to any group that posts it on its website.

Workers Monday were putting the finishing touches on the new $30,000 system, which is being installed by Adwar Video of Farmingdale. The legislature also authorized spending another $11,800 a year with IQM2 of Ronkonkoma for hardware, a posting service and Web portal to keep the system running. Officials say no new employees have been hired, but three existing budget review aides will operate the system as part of their duties.

The system will show individual lawmakers during debate or show the body as a whole during proceedings. Viewers will also see speakers from the public.

Suffolk joins the Nassau County Legislature, which has streamed video of meetings since 2008, according to legislative officials. Nassau's video of meetings is streamed online through the legislature's website, but the system uses a single fixed camera.

Suffolk legislative officials will archive the video and say they expect residents will soon be able to search for parts of the meeting by date, time and resolution.

For now, only the meetings in Hauppauge will be streamed. Riverhead, where five of the 14 legislature's annual meetings are held, is not wired.

Suffolk officials say the late Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) had earlier considered a video system, but put off the project because of county fiscal problems. Instead, he chose a less costly streaming audio in 2009, which also remains on the website.

"It can't come soon enough," said Legis. John Kennedy (R-Neseconset), the minority leader, who has backed the idea going back to 2007. "The process of making law may be horrible like sausage-making, but I think the debate and back and forth is important for people to see."

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