Public meetings should be streamed

There's a lot to hate about the COVID pandemic, not to mention the RSV and flu that have joined it to help create a trifecta of misery. Make that a possible four-plex threat; health officials are warning of measles outbreaks because children aren't being vaccinated.

The isolation, politics, actual threat to health -- the National Bureau of Economic Research found 76% more Republicans than Democrats died in Florida and Ohio from March 2020 to December 2021 -- economic impact all leave us grateful for any amount of "normalcy' that has returned.

But the pandemic did force us to explore the boundaries of what technology can do to help.

For one, many churches now stream their services, a godsend for shut-ins, parents with sick children, or even congregations sharing sermons.

Not many of us enjoy Zoom meetings for business, but more and more of us are using streaming video to connect with friends and family.

With most elected leaders calling for increased transparency, especially when seeking office, what about requiring public meetings to be streamed?

It certainly would be tempting to log onto a website rather than trek to a City Council meeting during today's temperatures.

Some states are now or are considering requiring public meetings to be streamed, and there's good reason to consider it.

For one, technology is no longer difficult to obtain or expensive. Anyone with a cell phone is capable of streaming video, although we would hope extra care is taken to ensure good audio.

For another, a cell phone or small camera is no longer as intimidating as a full-scale broadcast television rig.

The same cell phone can be used to watch a streaming video, and 23 years into the 21st century, it's a rare home that doesn't have internet and streaming television capability.

And when it comes to the record, streaming a meeting usually creates an indisputable video of the proceedings.

However, anyone viewing streams of local church services or other gatherings will probably notice that viewership is not that high, usually a couple of dozen logged into the stream.

Anyone who has attended public meetings knows that there are long periods of boredom only occasionally punctuated by business of real widespread interest.

But for some, the presence of a camera can be intimidating, and for others, tempting. Public officials up for reelection can be tempted to use up meeting time with campaign speeches, and others worry about revealing their true feelings about controversial issues.

Plus, bylaws and procedures might have to be updated to take streaming into account, and long-time public servants may balk at any threat to traditional decorum.

Still, the pandemic proved just how useful and accessible streaming has become. While we always hope more and more citizens choose to turn out to see democracy at work, we encourage public bodies to meet them halfway by streaming each and every meeting.

-- McCook Gazette, Dec. 22