Our Views: Even in in-person era, public meetings should be more accessible remotely

By Staff Editorial

Source: The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

March 11, 2022

During the pandemic, government, like everyone else, embraced the use of video conferencing platforms. Most public bodies are returning to business as usual these days, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t learned from the temporary disruption.

The Bureau of Governmental Research is calling on government authorities, commissions, councils and other entities to continue to “livestream and archive video recordings of their meetings online, so citizens can continue to enjoy the benefits of remote access as pandemic restrictions ease and in-person meetings resume.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Many were already streaming their meetings before the pandemic. Others, including the Regional Transit Authority, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, and the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West, were not, despite the Louisiana state law that requires taxing entities to “video or audio record, film or broadcast live all proceedings in a public meeting” – although some plan to keep streaming now.

Each told BGR it provided audio of meetings when asked. That’s not enough, not when technology to improve access is readily available.

The upside of online-only meetings during the pandemic was that anyone could watch at home, or tune in to a replay at a more convenient time. This is especially useful because most public bodies hold meetings during normal business hours, when it’s inconvenient for many to attend.

BGR recommends expanding the state open meeting laws to require online access to public meetings. We encourage the Legislature make this important update — and also note that public entities need not wait.

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