Cydney Baron

There's no doubt that our world is forever changed by this pandemic.

While we're lamenting a lot of what we've lost, while trying to embrace what could be: there's one change I am hopeful to see stick around.

Safety precautions have afforded us more transparency and civic engagement.

County commissioner meetings, city council meetings, and local school board meetings are all being streamed online. This makes them infinitely more accessible and it has encouraged higher rates of participation and engagement.

As I've been covering local government meetings for nearly 10 years, I recall many instances when meetings were attended by only the council and myself.

I'm happy to see increased interest and increased access.

State-level governmental meetings are available online, too. Many of these would have been unaccessible to most of us but now we can watch them in real-time or, thanks to Facebook, at our own convenience.

We can re-play the parts we don't understand and we can save it for future reference.

Not only does this give us real-time updates on important issues, but it's a great lesson in how these processes work.

Whether I'm watching the streamed Claremore City Council meeting or the state board of education meeting, I now see hundreds or thousands of other viewers joining me.

It's a refreshing change.

There's another added bonus in this in that elected officials now know that their constituents are watching.

Decisions previously been made out of the watchful eye of voters and taxpayers are now in the forefront.

Knowing that their decisions, words, and actions are now able to be shared elected officials must move in more mindful and intentional ways.

By having increased civic engagement our elected officials are challenged to do their best work.

These livestreamed meetings also serve as a 2020-era replacement for the town hall meetings of years past. Sure, anonymity can influence the quality (and appropriateness) of comments. But if we all abide by basic rules of engagement, these meetings can be the perfect platform for elected officials to hear the thoughts of their constituents. Through comments and likes peppered throughout the meeting, officials get real-time feedback. These meetings are prompting discussions that our elected officials can and should be part of.

In a society plagued with corruption and distrust, this increased transparency is both crucial and welcomed.

Or, as Kofi Annan put it, "If corruption is a disease, transparency is a central part of its treatment."

Dalai Lama put it another way: "A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity."

So far 2020 has been a year of change. This is one change I think we can all get behind.

Cydney Baron is the editor of the Claremore Progress.

Recommended for you