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CT-N is back We should watch what our elected officials are doing

It was just over a year ago that the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) ended its coverage of the state Legislature and more, which it had provided to the public since 1999. CT-N, the cable and streaming video service run by CPAN, which gave the public complete access to legislative sessions, was then taken over by the Legislature itself. This was not a good solution to budgetary cuts that had gutted what CPAN had to work with, ending a tenure that had been a reflection of open government strength in Connecticut over its many years of operation.

After all, the ability of the electorate to oversee the workings of its government is one of the hallmarks of democratic rule. Without access to knowing what legislators are doing on their behalf, how can voters know whether to continue to support some and not others who are in office?

Now, going into the Lamont administration and a legislative session with newly elected state representatives and senators, there will again be a functional public affairs network accessible to Connecticut residents. CPAN has once again, partly due to having the most cost-effective approach, won the contract to cover the Legislature, after bidding against other entities who fell short. 

And why wouldn’t the group at CPAN have been the best choice? They know the state Capitol well and understand the quirks of our government. They were very willing to retain the staff who had pulled the network forward over the past year during its oversight by the Legislature. And they are figuring out how to implement new technical upgrades that will keep the  network viable.

CPAN says its mission is to educate and engage people in state government and civic life, and this contract to cover the legislative, judicial and executive branches of state government in Connecticut could not be more attuned to that. They will be working with around $1 million less than they had before their hiatus (so now $1.8 million), but CPAN President William Bevacqua has told the Hartford Courant that, though it means cutting staff, he is confident they will still be able to do more than only cover the workings of the three governmental branches. 

Their other initiatives include running events at the Old State House in Hartford; organizing the Kid Governor program, an award-winning civics education program for fifth-graders; and running Connecticut History
Day, a program for students in grades 6 through 12 that encourages exploration of local, state, national and world history.

All of these are excellent ways to engage the general public and prepare the next generation of voters for their role as citizens. They may all find government more interesting when they see it from the inside out, rather than only from the outside in. 

It is good for government openness and transparency in Connecticut to have CPAN once again running CT-N, making so much of our governance available to us as it is happening. Now it is up to all of us, as responsible citizens, to take advantage of their hard work and keep track of what our legislators, and all those in government, are doing when they gather. Watch CT-N. 

For more, go to www.ctpublicaffairsnetwork.org.