Coalition Pushes For More Streaming Of Meetings

The New York Coalition for Open Government is pushing for more governments to stream their meetings online.

The coalition recently released a study detailing how many villages, towns and cities in the state outside New York City stream governmental meetings on websites or social media platforms.

In Chautauqua County, the study found 10% of municipalities offer meeting streams. However, the OBSERVER checked the websites of the county’s 37 municipalities (as listed on the state’s website) and found only three that apparently offer streams. Those are the county’s two cities, Dunkirk and Jamestown, and the village of Fredonia.

That comes out to just 8%.

“This is a huge tool to help engage the public, inform the public,” Paul Wolf, the Coalition for Open Government’s president, said about online availability of government meetings. “Sure, there’s some technology issues, some expense involved, but (it’s) not as difficult as many people think.”

The report was done in partnership with Cornell University students, who gathered data. It found that 15% of municipalities in Western New York stream their meetings online. In Erie County, 33% do so. In Cattaraugus County, a miniscule 3% do it.

The statewide total is 23%; the study found 285 of New York’s 1,240 municipalities outside New York City stream governmental meetings.

There seems to be a correlation between municipality size and whether they stream or not. Some 48% of cities stream, compared to 21% of towns and 24% of villages. Among towns and villages with less than 5,000 residents, 13% do streaming of meetings, while 38% of those with more than 5,000 residents do it.

Wolf said part of the reason for the report is “to encourage other people to do this.” He noted that recent state legislation allows for “hybrid” meetings, where board members can attend online if they have a reason that they can’t go in person.

“What about the public?” he asked. Wolf called for a mandate to stream meetings to the public — if additional funding and training for municipalities is included.


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