Editorial: Streaming government meetings should be basic expectation
In the face of some criticism that the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board and administration are not transparent enough with the public, board President Dan Petro has said the board may return to livestreaming board meetings.
We're not entirely sure why, at Illinois' second-largest high school district -- an eyelash from being the largest -- making meetings available to the public virtually is still subject to debate. But since it apparently is, we'll add our two cents: Yes, stream the meetings.
Not only stream them, but keep them available on the District 214 website for up to a year, if not in perpetuity.
District 214 did a good job streaming meetings during the height of the pandemic, although for many months it was the only reliable way for board members to meet.
Unfortunately, only two streams are still available on the district website, from last November and December.
One of many effects the pandemic has had on society is a heightened expectation that government units will conduct their business openly, using available technology.
That the pandemic has ebbed to the point where most governments are back to meeting in-person doesn't change that.
School boards, councils and other doers of the public business must continue to make it as easy as possible for citizens to watch and understand their activities. Technology today makes it possible for more people than ever to watch our governments in action. That's reason enough to do it.
You can decry the lack of civic engagement in our lives today, and you'd be right. It's harder than ever to get people involved in local politics.
But people's lives have changed, too. Not everyone is home from work at 7 or 7:30 p.m. when most meetings start; or maybe that hour in the evening is the only time parents can spend with their kids or with each other.
It's a fundamental mission of government to be as open as possible to as many people as possible. Anybody with a smartphone can livestream, and it doesn't require Hollywood-style production values. A camera or phone on a tripod that remains unmoving during a meeting is enough, as long as the microphone can clearly pick up what is said.
Yes, there are costs associated with streaming meetings. Small districts will feel it more than big districts, true, but cost cannot be a stumbling block to accessibility.
It costs money to take minutes at meetings and transcribe them, too.
It is the simply one of the costs of doing business -- the public's business.