In Torrance, the cost is $189,000. That’s how much it cost to purchase and install a high-tech system that enables City Council members’ votes to be automatically logged, tallied and then displayed simultaneously on four 46-inch LCD panels. Mayor Frank Scotto pledged he would install such a system during his campaign last year. Scotto and other political opponents of former mayor Dan Walker believe the system was “critically important” to putting a stop to the political gamesmanship they charged was rife during Torrance City Council meetings. “People might say this is an expensive way of accomplishing that, but this is the true, perfect way to ensure nothing can be manipulated,” Scotto said. “You’re going to see 6-1 votes more often, you’ll see 5-2 votes more often now. ? This way (panelists) can’t hide what they truly feel about an item because they’re going to have to vote privately.” TORRANCE: High-tech, $189,000 system will display votes all at once. By Nick Green STAFF WRITER What price democracy? Previously, panelists would vote verbally one at a time when called upon by the city clerk, with the mayor voting last. Scotto noted that at times, once it was clear which way the political wind was blowing, council members would not vote their conscience, instead jumping on the winning side of an issue. The new voting system also diminishes the power of the mayor, who – as the last to vote – would break 3-3 ties. The system itself cost about $42,000. The rest covered the cost of embedding seven panels – each with a privacy screen and a computer – in the existing City Council dais, the LCD panels and a wireless network. That latter component means council members no longer are forced to carry around thick agendas; council members have the agendas in the computers, while city staff can simply plug in and access the system via a laptop computer (the public, however, cannot). The system also tracks how long people speak before the council, which is designed to eliminate charges of favoritism that some people get to speak longer than others. “Nobody will have preferential treatment,” Scotto said. “Everybody will be given an equal amount of time with the clock right in front of them.” Talk too long and speakers will have the word “expired” flashed on the screen in front of them, although city officials say they plan to change that term to something a little less terminal. Information also can be displayed on the large LCD panels, making it easier for the audience to see video or PowerPoint presentations. And the system makes it easier to prepare meeting minutes. Within a year, City Clerk Sue Herbers envisions the council agenda being prepared entirely without paper, making it accessible to the public quicker. Torrance isn’t the first South Bay city to use such a vote-tallying system; Carson and Lawndale use one today, and Redondo Beach had one for years, dating to the 1970s. Tuesday’s council meeting in Torrance was the first time it was used and it was apparently not without its bugs. “This is not progress,” Councilwoman Gene Drevno said at one point, a note of frustration in her voice. But Scotto believes it is. “A couple of months, and it will be old hat,” he said. “It’s something new, and it’s going to take everybody a little bit of time to get used to it.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!