I moved to San Ramon in 1997 and in 2000 I applied to be on the Board of Directors of Community TV, also known as TV30. Darla Stevens was the founder of the stations. She ran a loose ship but managed to get a lot done on a shoestring.
When Darla retired in 2004 her replacement managed to antagonize everyone, so he was replaced after a year. His replacement cleaned up the stations and produced highly professional shows, but he was charged with sexual harassment, and whether it was true or not, he also ran up a lot of expenses and the stations were going broke.
The Tri-Valley Mayors from Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, and San Ramon took over as Board of Directors of TV30 and hired Melissa Tench-Stevens to run it. So far Tench-Stevens has done a good job, airing a variety of programs while keeping expenses under control.
Because of recent changes in the way cable fees for PEG Access (Public, Education, & Government) money can be spent, TV30 requested $97,602 for operating expenses and $33,924 for capital funding for 2012-13 which isn't in the City's budget. The City Council considered whether to pay the additional amount or drop out of funding TV30 at their May 8th Council meeting.
Councilmember Scott Perkins verified that the cost of videotaping the meetings is in next year's budget; so those would continue to be produced and aired, but if we don't come up with the additional amount, San Ramon would be left out of other programs like the Mayor's Report, The Christmas Tree lighting, Slice of Life, and local sports.
TV30 Executive Director, Melissa Tench-Stevens told the City Council that it isn't easy to produce your own TV shows. You need experienced people and studio equipment. She said TV30 could continue to operate without San Ramon's share but San Ramon would be taking on more than they expect.
She was followed by Mayor Marshall Kamina who urged the Council to stay in TV30's Tri-Valley pool, and Mayor Abram Wilson. Wilson warned that doing our own TV production would become an ongoing expense, while TV30 is working towards self-sufficiency.
I questioned whether the amount of money requested by TV30 would be spent on a Public Information Officer instead. I was told this wasn't an either/or option and a PIO is still necessary for open communication with residents.
Councilmember Jim Livingstone said he doesn't think San Ramon gets its fair share from TV30. "We always end up with the short stick" he said, but he isn't sure the City could produce our own Mayor's Report better than TV30. Livingstone was torn between spending additional money on TV30 and breaking away from the other Tri-Valley cities.
Every few months TV30 brings all four Mayors together for a one-hour version of the Mayor's Report. This week's Mayors' Report featured the four Tri-Valley Mayors at the Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon. If we separated from TV30, we would of course be separated from these joint Mayors' Report programs.
Councilmember O'Loane wanted to know what we are giving up and what we would be gaining if we drop TV30. O'Loane felt this is a transitional time in TV and media and it's not clear which direction it is going.
Councilmember Perkins isn't sure high school sports programming is worth the $100K TV30 is asking for. When I was flipping the channels today, I saw the Cal High girls Lacrosse team playing the Foothill High team on TV30's Sports Final. Cal High won 16 to 12. Now where else would San Ramon and Pleasanton parents get to see that! I believe these sports programs are valuable to San Ramon residents.
Mayor Clarkson said that this item is important enough to be discussed at the public meeting and not in the workshop with many other financial decisions that need to be made. I attended the Budget Workshop on May 15th to find out the financial fate of TV30.
No decision was made at that workshop, but City Manager Greg Rogers said the amounts requested by TV30 could be added as an amendment to the budget at the City's May 22nd Council meeting. So that item will be on the Agenda for next week's Council meeting.
If my readers care about keeping San Ramon in TV30's programming, or believe it is a waste of money, email the City Council or attend the meeting and make your position known.