Today’s paper carries the photos of yesterday’s swearing in ceremony for our governor and lieutenant governor. The accompanying article notes, “The Statehouse was strangely empty for the occasion, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic… Most members of the state Senate and House of Representatives watched over online video.”
While that strikes me as sad, a few more paragraphs down pointed out a positive. “Scott, who planned to give a longer televised address at 7 p.m., gave a shorter speech by online streaming video…”
Before COVID-19, I don’t believe we would have seen online streaming video utilized.
When I served on the school board, every so often someone would complain that they could not attend meetings because they could not leave their small children unsupervised. We responded by offering free childcare, but it was rarely utilized. That didn’t surprise me; it’s very disruptive to a family nightly routine to be out of the home during normal supper hours. You have to be very committed to a cause to make this work.
Still trying to be responsive government, we also filmed and recorded our meetings, which were then posted within about 24-48 hours. This helped folks know what had happened. It didn’t really give them much of a voice in the process.
Now, all our local government meetings are held via Zoom call. Sure, there have been a few bumps in figuring out how to allow for public comment and still get board work completed. A couple of meetings have been disrupted and forced to end abruptly when taken over by someone who hacked in.
After almost a year of figuring out how to “do government” when in-person meetings are not safe, our community is more open and transparent than ever before… and that, my fellow citizens, is another silver lining.