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Are Virtual Public Meetings Here For Good?

Online public hearings and other meetings have become commonplace. A case can be made to continue virtual meetings even in the post-COVID-19 era.
September 9, 2020, 8am PDT | clementkhlau | @clemusc
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Vitalii Vodolazskyi

By now, just about everyone has participated in some form of online meeting using tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and/or Google Hangout, whether it be for work, school, or social purposes. This practice will likely continue on in the foreseeable future.

In this opinion piece, Scott Beyer argues the case for making virtual public meetings permanent. Specifically, Beyer's key points include:

  • Meeting virtually reduces costs, such as travel/commuting costs for individuals and overhead costs for building maintenance, electricity, security personnel, etc.
  • Online meetings increase public access and participation by enabling individuals to participate from the comfort of their homes and not worry about issues like childcare.
  • Meeting virtually, instead of physically, prevents "public meetings from devolving into emotional trainwrecks," according to Beyer. He goes on to explain how virtual meetings can reduce emotional factors.

Beyers recognizes that in-person meetings will return at some point and are necessary for those without access to the internet. He concludes by saying, "A happy medium would be to hold meetings that are in-person but offer the option to attend and comment virtually. Officials will be able to hear a greater diversity of opinion, and members of the public will get the chance to calmly state their views while physically separate from the public-chamber mobs. The result is likely to be better public policy."

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Published on Wednesday, September 2, 2020 in Governing
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