in open meetings law worries Paradise mayor
By David Baker
March 31, 3006 | PARADISE -- Of the 395 bills passed
by the 2006 Utah Legislature, it is a revision of the
Open and Public Meetings Law that has Mayor Lee Atwood
This revision mandates that along with written minutes,
an audio, or audio and video recording be made of the
proceeding of public meetings. Unlike larger communities,
Paradise lacks the equipment to make such a recording.
"For Paradise it's kind of tough. Our council chamber
isn't set up with mics and recording equipment," Atwood
For Atwood, the financial investment is a concern.
Although he has no idea what recording equipment costs,
he said it will be more than buying a tape recorder.
And with the amount of background noise in the council
chamber, Atwood fears a lack of more advanced equipment
may make the recordings "just a bunch of noise."
"If you listen, would you be able to make heads or
tails of what's going on?" he said.
Atwood said they want to be in compliance as quickly
as possible while minimizing the cost. But they aren't
trying to keep government action secretive. "The wheels
of government turn slowly. So it makes it hard to jump
right out and be in compliance," he said. "We don't
want to hide or duck away from things."
Besides the financial concerns, Atwood worries about
the effect recording may have on the amount of input
given on ideas, and the atmosphere of the meetings.
"You will be more frank if you know you aren't being
recorded," he said. "People could sit back and not say
Atwood is concerned recording may create of a lack
of honest input, which would hinder the development
of ideas in their early stages. People are more willing
to talk openly if they know everything they say isn't
going to be recorded, especially in the beginning stages,
As a small town, we want people to come and voice
their opinions, Atwood said. But he fears recording
may deter people from doing that.
"It's not the atmosphere a small town has," he said.
"You are working with elected officials that are your
The town council doesn't meet in a large room with
microphones, and they aren't seated above everyone else
in big chairs. Often those who are on the agenda simply
pull up a chair at the council table. For Atwood, this
intimate atmosphere is an important part of government
in towns like Paradise.
"Our format isn't too conducive to recording," Atwood
said. "We are more laid back... with more of a casual
"The state Legislature creates a state law that's
one size fits all and it doesn't," he said. This happens
because the legislature considers bigger cities but
fails to think about smaller towns, he added.
Despite his concerns, Atwood was able to find one
positive. "Maybe our meetings will be quicker," he said