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Turned Off by TV, Council Cancels Its Show

September 29, 1985|ALAN MALTUN | Times Staff Writer

EL MONTE — In the uncertain world of television, it isn't unusual for programs to survive only briefly. But the City Council show is one of the shortest-lived productions on record. It lasted just one episode before being axed by its stars: the council members.

The cablecast on KELM--El Monte's community access channel--had its debut and demise when the council met at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10. It was, by all accounts, an uneventful and unusually short session, lasting about an hour and 15 minutes. Afterward, without waiting for ratings or reviews to come in, the council decided that once was enough.

Mayor Don McMillen, who led a 3-1 majority vote to kill the show, did not exactly come out and say he thought it was boring, but the message was clear. "I don't think we're going to have very many viewers," he said.

McMillen said the program wasn't worth the $100 or so it cost to produce and objected to the jury-rigged television lights and the cables snaking along the floor of the crowded council chambers. He was joined in his opposition by Councilmen Jack Crippen and Ernest Gutierrez.

'A Bad Operation'

"It's a bad operation the way it is now," McMillen said, adding that he would support cablecasting the meetings after the council moves next year to new quarters, which will be wired for video cameras and lights.

Councilman Dan Morgan dissented.

"To my thinking," Morgan said, "televising a council meeting is about as good a program as you could do. It allows people to turn it on and get an idea of what public officials are doing for them. I voted for it all along because I felt it was a way to communicate with constituents. I didn't think it was going to be an instant hit, (but) I felt as it went along it would eventually catch on and strengthen cable television in the city."

Councilman Henry Velasco was absent during the vote but objected to the show's cancellation.

"It's really a shame that they stopped," Velasco said. "It was one of the best ways to keep the public informed. We spend $9,000 to put out two newsletters and this is a much better way to keep people informed. I don't know whether it's vanity or politics or maybe they're (afraid they are) not prepared, but it certainly isn't the cost factor."

'Looked Pretty Good'

Gutierrez, who originally supported the coverage, then changed his mind, denied that vanity or politics was behind his decision. He said he favors devoting staff time to televising other programs and events in the community.

"If we wanted to highlight ourselves, we would be on TV," said Gutierrez, chairman of the El Monte Cable Television Community Access Corp., which produced the show. "It's not vanity. They tell me I look pretty good on TV."

Added McMillen: "I had nothing against the way I looked, but they said the color didn't come across good with the lights they had."

Other Councils Televised

Several other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, including Monrovia and Azusa, have coverage of their council meetings, but the idea never has had strong support on the council here. McMillen and Crippen opposed it all along and Gutierrez initially supported it only on condition that the cameras be turned off near the end of the meeting before comments from the public start.

"It was going to be cut off after the city attorney's agenda," McMillen said. "We were going to get people who were going to come in just to be on TV. They're just going to be in there grandstanding. They're going to come and accuse us of something we can't answer there. It would look bad."

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