SALEM — Is the City Council ready to go paperless?
The board has begun to look into the use of tablet computers, which would eliminate the thick packet of paperwork members receive before each meeting.
With councilors having varying degrees of computer literacy — including one who doesn't use an email address — it remains to be seen if the idea would be successful with the entire board.
The concept was initially suggested by Councilor Jerry Ryan. The board voted last night to keep the issue with the committee on administration and finance for further study.
"I think it's a wonderful idea, a wonderful opportunity," said Councilor Robert McCarthy. "It just needs to be vetted out."
The committee on administration and finance had scheduled a meeting to discuss the idea of "governing with iPads" on Wednesday, but a technology vendor that was invited to the meeting never came.
McCarthy said Ryan will be meeting with that vendor at a later date, and the council had been contacted by a second vendor interested in working with the city.
Several Salem councilors already use their own personal tablet computers during meetings.
An estimated cost to outfit all 12 city councilors with tablet computers is yet to be determined. The retail price of the latest version of Apple's tablet computer, the iPad2, starts at $499.
The town of Ipswich has already adopted the use of iPads. Several department heads and each selectman have been issued iPads, which are loaded with agendas and supporting documents before each Board of Selectmen meeting.
A vote for George
For the 15th year, Councilor Joan Lovely made an order to have the city's enormous portrait of President George Washington be brought back into City Council chambers.
Lovely has made the suggestion every February, around the Presidents Day holiday, since she's been on the council. The board voted in favor of Lovely's order last night. And the move has been supported by councilors in the past.
Yet the stately portrait of our country's first president remains in a stairway just outside of the chambers, across the hall from the mayor's office.
The portrait, painted by James Frothingham, was given to the city by Abiel Abbott Low in 1862. The painting is a copy of the famous 1796 Lansdowne portrait by American painter Gilbert Stuart, who also created the Washington image that appears on the $1 bill.
Years ago, the portrait hung in a place of prominence, behind the podium in City Council chambers. For varying reasons, it has never returned, Lovely said.
Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.