Is Skype the answer

New shades went up on our screen porch this weekend, so I don’t have to sit in the sun in the mornings while I write my column. The sun rises in my eyes and doesn’t disappear until about the time I have to go to work.  Three cups of coffee, a few words on the computer, morning “hastas” and it’s time to get to work in time for lunch.

My days can be grueling, especially two days a month when I have to cover the Board of Supervisors until I learned I can watch them at home on the sofa with some chips and a cool drink. If I could call-in my work, which some people think I do, I would have it made.

There has been some talk among Supervisors about having Skype or something similar in place for when a Supervisor can’t make the meeting. I suppose there will be a time when the entire meeting will take place on Skype. Make sense to me. I think you might get a little more honesty as well. Supervisors and Planning Commissions could argue, not just discuss, issues about a case because they are not looking at one another directly face to face.

Technologically it would be quite easy to accomplish. Those who had Skype on their computers, could participate, others would have to come to the meeting room where the Supervisors would be shown on the screens already in place. Speakers could also use Skype from their office or home.

No one would have to go anywhere, just watch the meeting on TV or Skype. Sitting on the sofa the viewer could switch back and forth from Dancing with the Stars, the Soccer World Cup and then the Sups meeting. They would probably wait for the case in which they were interested.

Here’s another level that would cost a fortune: distribute iPads to anyone who is interested in how decisions are made in their interest by County government. Of course, these iPads could only receive information from the County.

Maybe iPads would not be as costly as you might think. Chesterfield County schools just made a deal to distribute over 13,000 iPad-type computers to middle school students and next year over 18,000 plus iPad-type computers to high school students.

Could citizens interested in all Board and Planning Commission meetings top over 31,000? If schools could afford over 31,000 iPad type computers, why couldn’t the county administration; and I’ll bet there won’t be but about 12,000 to 15,000 people who would be interested in getting an iPad if it only carried county information?  

Sounds like a lot of people, but if you attend a public meeting at the public meeting room at the County complex you will not find very many County citizens interested in any particular case. Maybe the number of iPads that would have to be distributed would be less than estimated above.

The next step would be to make the iPads interactive. When any particular zoning case or public meeting is in the session, people at home could vote yeah or nay on the issue by just touching a button. Of course after a while the property tax would go to $0 cents per $100 of your home’s value. But on the other hand County residents could see that their tax dollars are important.

Many road projects would halt, libraries would close, police would be nil, fire and EMS would not be available, parks would be unkempt and schools may even close or be immensely overcrowded. But cash proffers for builders and developers would go through the roof and fees for everything would skyrocket. You think registering your car is expensive now at $40, think of what the fee would go to without property taxes.

The home vote sounds very democratic, but it wouldn’t work. Those who participate in the project would be a small percentage of the population, and you have heard before the tyranny of the minority would go to exponential proportions.

Skype in place of a Supervisor is a silly idea, but not as preposterous as the iPad in your homes idea. I think there has to be a sensible way to draw County residents to a public meeting. How about paying them? That’s as bad as the Skype idea.

How about commercials on cable during high audience viewing?

“Tune in the channel 27 on Wednesday for a rezoning case that is sure to be contention. Watch attorney what’s his name try and con the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors into five-thousand houses on 20 acres. Mr. Holland could lose his temper while Mr. Warren falls asleep. You know it will be exciting. Also this week don’t miss the Virginia State Choir sing ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and Boy Scout Troop 2987 demonstrate knife throwing and archery before getting their Eagle. This Supervisors’ meeting is something you don’t want to miss. Three o’clock and six o’clock on Channel 27, or watch it live at the Public Meeting at the County Complex.”

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