Public Meetings 2.0

 

You’re busy and so is your local government. You have work, errands, family activities, chores … the list goes on. Your local government, on the other hand is constantly working on issues that affect you directly. It’s tough enough to stay informed of what your local government is doing, let alone making it to a public meeting.

Your local government allows you the opportunity to be informed and voice your opinion on issues that affect you, but how many people (including myself) actually attend those meetings and make it a priority to do so? Most people would rather not sit through an hour-long meeting waiting for that parking regulation discussion that is most important agenda item to them.

What if there was a way to stay up to date about decisions that are being made by your local government on issues that matter to you? What if you could also voice your opinion on those issues in a more informed way, at the same time, on your time, anytime, 24/7?

The answer is Internet video. According to a recent Nielsen report, there were “more than nine billion video streams viewed in the U.S. in March.”

If you had video on-demand for local government meetings, you could easily watch what really happened (the full discussion – not just a summary or someone’s interpretation of it in the minutes). Having complete and accurate information makes you better able to effectively participate in government, whether it’s writing an email or making a phone call about the issues that matter to you.

So, if there’s an easy solution, why aren’t more local governments providing this for the public?

There are several reasons, including that they consider video a disruption to the current flow that the meetings have. They’ve always done the meetings the same way. But video isn’t there to change the process. It’s there to record the process and make it more accessible to others.

Others might be overwhelmed and intimidated by the technology, thinking it’s too complicated and not applicable. They haven’t grown up with it and it seems like an unreasonable idea. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Video can be simple and useful.

Generally, officials may be thinking, “Why should we post videos of our meetings online?” The answer is simple:

Because that’s where most of your constituents are. It allows government to reach out to the people by being more accessible to them, helps citizens become more knowledgeable and involved with important issues and can help to gain their support. Online video also offers the ability to research a re-occurring agenda item and the possibility of less Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests because citizens can do the research on their own, saving the clerk time and the government money.

What’s stopping you from championing this for your government?

Justin Mosebach is a Marketing Assistant for CDS Solutions Group in Lancaster, PA. CDS offers solutions for local governments to put their public meetings on video and online through MakeAMotion and VideoMinutes. Follow @VideoMinutes on Twitter.

  • http://nycengaged.wordpress.com Dan

    Great post, Justin. I’m deeply interested in this topic, and am in the process of attempting to do this for NYC.

    nycengaged.wordpress.com

  • http://www.videominutes.net/ Justin Mosebach

    Thanks Dan! How much success have you had? Any advice for others who are trying to do the same?

  • http://www.northcharleston.org Ryan Johnson

    I encourage the use of Ustream. We, at the City of North Charleston, have been streaming our City Council Meetings live since February to tie into our overall social media campaign. It’s very easy to use, no real limitations, and most importantly…it’s free

    Our next meeting is tonight at 7:00 pm
    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/north-charleston

  • http://www.videominutes.net/ Justin Mosebach

    Ryan, thanks for your input. How has citizen interaction improved since you put meetings online? Any examples you’d like to share?

  • http://nycengaged.wordpress.com Dan

    We’re still in the early phases of organizing, but we hope to be up and running within 6 weeks… at least generating ideas. Best advice I can give is that flexibility and openness to ideas are critical. More musings on the blog http://nycengaged.wordpress.com.

    Ryan–thanks for the Ustream suggestion. Looking into this.

  • http://www.northcharleston.org Ryan Johnson

    Citizen participation has been modest. However, we are providing a service by allowing anyone with an internet connection to view our past meeting at anytime. Previously, the best available would have been an audio recording provided by our Clerk of Council.

    North Charleston has completely undertaken the Gov 2.0 movement. Hop over to our website to see how we have integrated it all right into the city’s homepage.

  • http://www.videominutes.net/ Justin Mosebach

    Ryan, that’s cool how you’ve integrated it into your website. More local government websites should be like yours. The map on the homepage is an especially nice feature!