April 23, 2012

YouTube Testimony

I HAD the occasion this weekend to visit the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors website (http://bit.ly/hTy3wC) because I was looking for information that was presented at a particular meeting. I found a memorandum from the County Manager’s office on the subject I was looking for but there was no video archive of the actual hearing.

Without that video archive, I couldn’t hear what members of the board had to say about the issue nor could I benefit from listening to what the people who showed up at the meeting had to say.

That got me thinking.

The system that’s used at Board meetings is most likely similar to the one that was in place in 1856 when the county was formed. People who wanted to address the board filled out slips of paper and turned them in. When called to speak, a person was given two minutes to make their case.

That process was OK in the 19th Century but what would a 21st Century board process look like? How could technology change the way we do things? How could the hearing process be more open?  

What if...
...all Board of Supervisors meetings were streamed live over the Internet?
...all Board of Supervisors meetings were archived immediately following the meeting?
...the Board of Supervisors allowed people to submit comments and testimonies on YouTube?   

Board meetings are held on Tuesdays during the day when many people work, are at school or taking care of their families. That kind of scheduling potentially excludes people from sharing their views on a particular matter before the Board.

Permitting YouTube testimony would mean that even if you were busy at the time of the hearing and couldn’t physically be there - you could still have your voice heard.  

Sure.  There would have to be rules. Regular testimony is limited to two minutes; YouTube testimony would have to be the same. And, there could be rules that would help make testimony more civil - like no profanity, for example.

Maybe more voices, more openness and more democracy would make county government more efficient and more responsive? It definitely would help make it more inclusive and more participatory.

Although not everyone has Internet access (although the vast majority do) and many may not  know how to make a YouTube video (but there could be an instructional video online),  I think it’s a step in the right direction.  Let’s use technology to open up government.

What do you think?


Rob said...

I think SMC needs Granicus, used by jurisdictions throughout the country. Click on an agenda item for a Board Meeting, and Voila! You get the video without having to wait 4 hours to get past the irate testimony about cat poop on the sidewalks...

Rob said...