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Council president Marilyn Marler said hello to her pops – all the way in Arizona – at the end of Monday’s regular meeting of the Missoula City Council.

“Hi Dad, on the new Internet streaming video,” said Marler, who chaired the meeting in the mayor’s absence.

Last week, the city of Missoula announced its new $83,155 web technology project was going live at this week’s meeting. Among other features, the SIRE Technologies system streams live video of council meetings online.

Before the council kicked off its agenda, City Clerk Marty Rehbein offered a demonstration of the new setup. Viewers can go to the “Media Central” box on the city’s main website at www.ci.missoula.mt.us.

“This is an evolution in our efforts to have more transparent meetings with our citizens, who are really engaged with the community,” Rehbein said.

The program also archives the video of a City Council or committee meeting with its agenda. That means a busy citizen who misses a committee meeting but wants to watch it on her own time as soon as possible can search for the agenda online and then watch the meeting online.

Because the video is linked to the agenda, someone can even drill down into one agenda item. If he clicks on it, the video portion that matches it will pop up as well, Rehbein said.

One of the most frequent questions the City Clerk’s Office gets about council meetings is for vote counts. Rehbein has been sending out votes in summaries of the meetings right after they wrap up, but the new system will add another layer of information.

People can click on the “History” link next to an item, and SIRE shows all related documents, such as draft ordinances, presentations and minutes from other meetings. “Vote records” also come up.

The system should help staff as well, she said. In the past, a staff member had to plug every link into an agenda posted on the city’s website by hand. Unlike many other Montana cities, she said, Missoula in general holds both council and committee meetings every week, so the work was laborious.

“We do business at a much quicker pace. So that can be a challenge,” Rehbein said.

The new system, though, streamlines the process. The cost includes five years for hosting the video, technical support, training, and software updates, which generally take place a couple of times a year, Rehbein said.

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At the meeting, councilors voted unanimously to send an amendment on nonconforming structures back to committee.

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Marler read a mayoral proclamation that marks July 8, 2012, as Missoula Marathon Day, and for many reasons. For one thing, the Run Wild Missoula nonprofit’s races are bringing “more than 1,400 marathoners and 2,900 half-marathoners from all 50 states, five Canadian provinces and eight countries” to Missoula, a boon for economic development.

In another high note for tourism as an economic development tool, Adventure Cycling Association director Jim Sayer said the bicycle travel organization is growing in members, visitors, staff and revenue. The association’s success has led to numerous national media stories that dateline Missoula and laud the Garden City as a bicycle destination, he said.

In his remarks, Sayer thanked councilors for supporting bicycle transportation. He also invited the public to the association’s First Friday celebration from 4 to 8 p.m. this Friday to view its recent expansion at 150 W. Pine St.

Marler noted there was time for one question of Sayer, and Councilman Mike O’Herron was quick on the draw:

“Have you talked to your commissioners about the gas tax?” O’Herron asked.

One argument proponents of the proposed 2-cent-per-gallon gas tax make is that it pulls in money from visitors instead of relying only on people who own property here. Montana law says county commissioners can put the matter on the ballot; councilors have asked the commissioners to do so, but they have resisted the idea.

In response to O’Herron, Sayer said he hadn’t talked with them yet, but he would.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

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