Members of the Orange County Fair Board are ready for their close-up.
In a move that drew praise from some community members and those who attend board meetings regularly, board members voted last week to buy and install equipment to begin recording and live-streaming their monthly gatherings.
“Welcome to the 21st century, folks,” said Costa Mesa resident Beth Refakes.
The 8-1 vote Thursday — with member Barbara Bagneris opposed — directed staff to buy a single camera that will be attached to the ceiling toward the back of the board’s meeting room at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
The camera will be positioned so it can capture both the board and public speakers, according to fairgrounds staff.
The Fair & Event Center plans to create a YouTube channel for meeting videos. The overall estimated cost to launch the program is $6,750, including $4,000 for hardware, $2,500 for programming and $250 annually to maintain the YouTube channel, according to staff.
Supporters of the idea have long maintained that recording meetings would increase transparency and provide a way for the public to stay up to date with goings-on at the fairgrounds without having to attend board meetings, which start at 9 a.m. the fourth Thursday of each month.
Some board members said they favored possibly installing more-robust recording equipment down the line or exploring whether their meetings can be broadcast on public-access channels across the county.
Bagneris, however, said she was concerned about the concept “because there’s so much hateful language spewed in these meetings that I would hate for that to be on a loop on someone else’s social media platform.”
“This is the Orange County Fair; we’re a family venue; we bring joy to people’s lives,” she said. “I’m just really concerned [with] what could happen.”
Board member Newton Pham, however, said there’s currently nothing preventing that since residents can record and stream the meetings themselves.
“You can just turn on your phone and go live right now if you wanted to, regardless of the situation,” he said. “I prefer transparency from the board and from the fair itself.”
Board member Ashleigh Aitken added she thinks the new YouTube channel will present an opportunity to market and highlight the organization.
“I think it’s actually something that can be a really positive thing for the fair and another reminder in social media days that we’re here, that we exist, that we’re going on,” she said. “It doesn’t have to just be limited to our meetings.”