Ichikawa, in the Chiba Prefecture, experienced an issue. It had come to the public’s attention that several municipal council members were acting unethically. Even worse, they were behaving unethically in the council’s meeting rooms.
So, what kind of offenses were being committed? Are they taking a bribe? Are interns making you grabby? No, as shown in the video below, they were dozing off during municipal council meetings.
To be fair, nobody was arriving with a pillow and a blanket while wearing pajamas. Instead, those who were dozing off slept while their colleagues’ made speeches and floated debate-worthy topics. Even so, most people would agree that they would prefer that their elected officials at least maintain their composure when ostensibly debating and establishing laws that directly affect their constituents. And in addition to those who dozed off, one city councilman was seen sitting at his seat reading a historical fiction book while he was supposed to be listening to the conversation.
Naturally, this infuriated the residents of Ichikawa greatly. The city received more than 100 phone calls and letters of complaint when the napping was first made public back in the summer. With complaints like “Do your jobs!”, “This is beyond lazy” and “They should be removed from office.”
The council’s more sincere members came up with an idea to win back the public’s trust. Up until last summer, when the Ichikawa city council began streaming its plenary sessions on its YouTube channel, the camera would typically zoom in and focus on the person speaking to the other council members from the podium at the front of the room. Now, however, the cameras are turned around more frequently to show the faces of the listening council members, allowing anyone watching the stream to determine whether they are awake, as seen in the portion of the video that is cued up here.
The Key is the face view. Council members may argue that they were being incredibly silent, breathing deeply, perhaps with their head bent at an odd angle while paying great attention to the proceedings if they were observed from behind. However, anyone found dozing off at work will be captured on camera or with their eyes closed.
In September, new camera angles were introduced. City Council Chairman Osami Matsuaga stated, “With this near measure, I hope that all members of the council would conduct themselves responsibly and make an effort to regain the faith of our citizens of the city.” Councilwoman Yuki Sato, who is in her first term, supported the countermeas1ure. “I believe it is excellent that people may use their gadgets that visually check on the council members. It creates a sense of unity and conveys the importance of treating council sessions seriously.”
The issue has not, however, been resolved right away by rotating the cameras. Some council members were still observed dozing off during the most recent live-streamed meeting in September. Some have expressed their displeasure with the new camera protocol, claiming that “The real problem is that the discussions are sleep-inducing” and “The fault lies with the uninteresting, unengaging discussions.” One person even went as far as to add, “I do not agree with their telling us ‘Don’t doze off,’ like we’re children or something.”
However, a number of Twitter users believe that treating the offending council members like misbehaving children is completely justified.
Although the last one seems like it might be a significant source of revenue for the Ichikawa, it does not seem like the city is yet prepared to implement such a program. It would probably be a good idea for each council member to get some rest before their next round of plenary sessions starts next month, even though the council’s next session is set to begin then.