Piece of Mind: When council meetings aren't on TV

The 49ers/Saints game, the season opener of "Dancing with the Stars," or Mayor Don Voss and the La Cañada Flintridge City Council meeting. What were your TV viewing priorities Monday night?

Decisions, decisions. I was planning to settle in early for a game of football (I'm a longtime 49er fan) but arrived home later than expected. Just as I entered the house, the phone rang. I tripped over the one-eyed cat (who was hovering expectantly near his dinner plate) to grab the receiver.

Jim Short, a curmudgeonly thorn in the side of City Hall but generally pleasant to me, was on the line. He wanted to know if we were able to see the city council meeting on our TV. He'd tried to tune in at his home but was seeing what he believed to be a neighboring city's meeting instead.

I moved into the den, phone still in hand, to turn on our TV. I pushed "03" on the remote control and was soon watching Capt. Dave Silversparre, commander of our local sheriff's station, give his monthly public-safety report to our council.

Jim said that according to the Charter Communications channel line-up guide, he should have been able to tune into Channel 16 to see our council in action, but instead he was seeing an officer in a blue uniform talking to another city council, which he took to be Glendale's or Burbank's. I vaguely remembered having read that Charter was shifting around its lineup this summer, so I asked if he'd tried Channel 3. He switched channels and described what he was seeing on his screen: the affable Huell Howser touting one of California's golden locales.

At Jim's request, I agreed to check with City Hall to find out why some households could watch the council meeting live Monday while others couldn't. And so on Tuesday I spoke to City Manager Mark Alexander, senior management analyst Carl Alameda and Peter Castro, who as public-safety coordinator, also monitors the cable broadcasting system via the control room adjacent to council chambers.

Castro explained to me that those of us who live generally on the east side of Angeles Crest Highway and subscribe to Charter are plugged into a Pasadena server; those on the west side of town are relying on a Glendale server. For some reason, Castro said, the Glendale server is the more likely of the two to have a system failure and Charter's default — so that there's no dead-air time — is to plug immediately into a Burbank council meeting. La Cañada communicates any problems to Charter, Castro and Alameda both told me, but we all know what it's like to beat our heads against that particular wall.

When there are failures similar to what happened with Monday night's broadcast, viewers who inquire at City Hall are advised that they can watch a repeat of the meeting on Thursday evenings. But Jim has every right to expect that he and his neighbors should be able to see the City Council meetings on TV at the same time those of us on the east side can. Unfortunately, it looks like he needs to take up his complaints with Charter rather than with our city manager. I'd rather undergo just about any punishment if it meant I could avoid dealing with Charter's customer service, but for what it's worth, that phone number is (888) 438-2427.

After finishing my conversation with Jim on Monday, I watched the 49er game to its (losing) conclusion, then switched back to the council meeting in time to see the discussion of a possible social-host ordinance to try to put a halt to the clueless local parents who serve alcohol to other people's teens. There will be more on that topic in months to come, so stay tuned.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. E-mail her at ccormaci@valleysun.net.

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