Local governments are, by definition, closer to the public they serve than state governments and certainly the federal government. Yet it is not that easy to engage with local governments.
With city council meetings scheduled at times when many people cannot access often run-down websites, local governments can be inaccessible to many. Or, although one could in theory go to town hall to attend a meeting, there are only a limited number of people who can muster the will to actually go.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced governments, like businesses, to change the way they conduct their operations. While certainly not perfect, and there were many missteps in the beginning, governments have incorporated more means of remote access so people can engage with their government.
Letâs continue like this.
Assembly Bill 339, introduced by Assembly members Alex Lee, D-San Jose, and Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, would require until 2024 that “all open and public meetings of a city council or county supervisory board that governs a jurisdiction containing at least 250,000 people to include an opportunity for members of the public to assist via a telephone option or an Internet service option.
The technology is there. For a year and a half, it has been done.
There is no serious reason why local governments cannot continue to make public meetings more widely accessible than before. After all, again, these governments are working for you, the taxpayer.
“Remote options that ensure equitable access to town hall meetings are necessary to ensure government that is accountable to all of its constituents, not just a few,” note Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and ACLU California Action, who back the draft. law.
Some local government groups such as the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties complain that the bill would incur costs for governments to continue to implement.
With all due respect, if a government can’t figure out how to continue to make meetings accessible using technology, that government probably needs all the scrutiny it can get.