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Palos Verdes Estates: Resident Puts Reluctant City Council on TV

August 11, 1994|JEFF KASS

The Palos Verdes Estates City Council does not want to be on TV. But it is anyway.

Four years ago, Dimension Cable Service gave Palos Verdes Estates the option of broadcasting its City Council meetings live on Channel 3, which is reserved for government-sponsored shows. The city declined.

But three months ago, Palos Verdes Estates resident John Dowsing began appearing at City Council meetings with his 8-millimeter video camera. He says he wants to expose the council to public scrutiny.

Dowsing tapes a City Council meeting, copies it onto a VHS cassette and gives the cassette to Dimension, which broadcasts the tape twice on Channel 33, as it does all public access shows, said Steve Fowler, Dimension's general manager.

City officials stand by their decision not to broadcast council meetings, but Dowsing says he is there to stay.

Officials say the council pays $350 a month to broadcast announcements of community events and council agendas on Channel 3. But officials say that televising meetings attracts residents and elected officials, who play to the cameras rather than the issues.

"What most city councils have is one or two loudmouths who love to see themselves speak," says City Manager James Hendrickson, "and the rest of the council gets ticked because it frustrates the process of governing."

Dowsing, however, questions some of the city's financial decisions, such as buying composting boxes, and adds that the city may be trying to avoid scrutiny by not televising meetings.

"I would just like the public to see what's going on with the city," Dowsing said.

Dowsing, 50, now a fixture at City Hall every other Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., says he is happy to tape the meetings: Airing tapes on Channel 33 is free, and the only costs are the time spent and $15 every couple of weeks for a VHS cassette.

"It would be nice if the city filmed themselves," Dowsing says, "but if they don't, I'll do it."

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