A couple of weeks ago, Scott County Supervisors revisited the idea of putting recordings of their meetings on the county website.


For years, advocates for good government have pushed for the county to move forward on this basic transparency step. Yet the county, which has long had a reputation for efficiency, just hasn't been able to get the job done.

At the meeting, staffers laid out the technical options and costs. But at the end of the meeting, it appeared the county was no closer to figuring out what to do.

This shouldn’t be so hard.

It's not a matter of money. In fact, just last Thursday the county set aside $200,000 for the effort, adding to the $50,000 that already had been budgeted.

It's not like this is a new thing, either. It was three years ago that former Supervisor Diane Holst suggested posting recordings.

In fact, this isn't a new thing for anybody. Far from it.

Of the five biggest counties in the state by population, Scott County is the only one that doesn't post either audio or video recordings to its website.

We found audio recordings on the Polk County web site of board meetings going back to 1996.

We found video of Linn County meetings going back to 2015. And it's been since the mid-1990s that people could watch Davenport City Council meetings on its local cable TV channel. Bettendorf had already been doing it by then.

Get the idea?

This shouldn't be so hard.

And it isn’t, not for so many of Iowa’s counties. And not just the larger ones, either.

Consider Osceola County in far northwest Iowa. The county has a population of 6,000 people and a budget of only $11 million. Compare that to Scott County, which has 172,000 people and a $90 million budget.

Yet, you can watch Osceola County Board meetings on its website.

(We would note that, while we were doing our research, we went to the Johnson County website and found a live feed of the county supervisors meeting last week. It was pretty impressive.)

In Scott County, however, if you want to hear a recording of the county board meetings, you have to go to the auditor's office on the 5th floor of the administrative center in downtown Davenport and ask. (The recording is done by the auditor's office.)

Some county board members still appear to have doubts about all this, however.

According to a report in the Times, Board Chairman Tony Knobbe wondered at the meeting two weeks ago, "Where is the driving need?" He said board agendas are available ahead of time and meetings are open to the public if people want to attend.

It should go without saying this isn’t enough.

We have noted previously that committee-of-the-whole meetings, where much of the real business gets done, are held at 8 a.m., a decidedly inconvenient time for working people who pay the salaries of county supervisors.

But even putting that aside, the public's expectation today, in a technology-driven age, is for a far greater level of openness and accessibility.

It isn't enough to do the bare minimum, to expect if the public wants to see or hear elected officials do their work that they take off work and go to the county courthouse.

This has long since ceased to be an argument in most places. Like in Davenport -- 25 years ago.

We would suggest this: County officials should, in short order, put together a reasonable proposal to post recordings of regular board meetings, as well as committee-of-the-whole meetings, to the county website.

Then we would ask that county supervisors finally vote on this matter and accomplish the long-past-due goal of showing the public how they do their work.

The proposal doesn't need to be as extensive as what they have in Johnson County, not immediately anyway. The ability to link agenda items to specific places in video recordings, along with the capability of live-streaming board meetings, is not what we nor the public expect at this point.

What we do expect is that, after years of meandering and foot-dragging, the county board demonstrates it believes in this basic level of transparency.

They did it in Polk County. They did it in Linn County. They did it in Johnson County. They did it in Black Hawk County.

They did it in Osceola County.

It's time Scott County stop dithering and get the job done, too.

Be the first to know - Sign up for Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments