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Opinion: Municipalities should continue to livestream and record their public meetings

When people are faced with stressful situations such as a pandemic, they lose a lot but they also learn something new. The process of adapting to negative events creates positive changes going forward.

Over the course of the pandemic, school district and municipal council meetings that were formerly held in person have been moved online, hosted typically via Zoom or Facebook Live.

This change has allowed the work to continue safely as board members dialed in from their homes.

A secondary advantage of using these platforms was the creation of permanent recordings of the meetings.

Now many boards are moving back to in-person meetings.  This is appropriate and necessary.  But the benefits of streaming and recording public meetings should not be given up as we do so.

I encourage municipal governments and school districts to continue live streaming and recording their meetings.

Some reasons this is important:

  • Live streaming and the saved recordings of meetings promotes transparency.  Anyone who is interested should be able to see what happens at a public meeting, whether they have attended it in person or not.
  • Some people cannot attend public meetings, perhaps because they cannot take the COVID-19 vaccine and perhaps for other health-related issues. The pandemic is still ongoing – we do not want to shut out populations.
  • A recording of a meeting provides a permanent record that can be used to answer questions about the meeting. When someone later says “you didn’t say that” or “we didn’t discuss that,” a recording provides a confirmation or disconfirmation.
  • Because the recording is permanent interested parties can go back to prior meetings to see discussions and how prior decisions were made.
  • Recordings provide more detail and are more objective than the minutes that are routinely taken.

Live recordings can be made easily and with little expense.  Zoom or Facebook Live are still options.  Place a laptop in the room facing the participants and start the recording.

Many school districts have spent money during the pandemic to improve their streaming and recording of sporting events, allowing more people to enjoy them. They should provide a similar service for their board meetings.

The cost of recording meetings is minimal.

Technical support for districts and municipalities that wish to record their meetings is available from Community Media of South Central PA. Community Media representative Mark Wherley said the organization would provide free consultation for districts and municipalities to help them choose equipment and support their recordings.

Wherley said the technology to record the meetings can be purchased for about $1000-$1500.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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