Updated: Jul 21
Call it one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic. Government agencies have finally figured out how to make their meetings more accessible to the public.
Long before the COVID shutdowns, various state legislatures offered remote testimony. In fact, several states were a model for how to involve the public without requiring them to travel the long distances to the capital.
But during the pandemic, even the smallest government agencies had to figure out a way to make the public meeting, well, public. This is especially difficult, it would seem, if you don’t let citizens into the room.
Thus, the livestream meetings were born. Okay, they had been born long before COVID, but during COVID, they had their day in the sun. It wasn’t necessarily must-see TV, but it was a must.
What happens now that, according to the president, the pandemic is "over?"
Opinion writer Scott McIntosh at the Idaho Statesman reports that some Idaho state agencies are “dropping the practice now that we’re coming out of the pandemic.” McIntosh reports “the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole, for example, will stop livestreaming its meetings as of November.”
It seems most agencies are going back to in-person meetings, which is a good thing. But that’s no excuse to stop the livestream as well.
There is no legal requirement for government agencies in Idaho to livestream their meetings – but perhaps there should be. Legislators might want to consider the requirement in the next session.
Families are busy. They don’t always have the time to show up to a council or government agency meeting and spend four hours sitting through a long agenda.
Furthermore, livestream meetings that are recorded provide citizens with an archive of what happened at the latest meeting. It is another way to hold elected officials accountable.
There is little cost associated with livestreaming a meeting – in fact, it can be as easy as getting a Zoom membership for $12 per month.
Like it or not, we live in a world run by technology. Any government agency or elected official committed to transparency should welcome the livestreaming and recording of meetings.