This semester I’ve been a student in Professor David Lee’s Political Science course and within the course we have discussed the idea of requiring public meetings to be streamed online so that anyone can participate. Presently, the current system makes it difficult for everyday people and students to get involved in government because it requires a lot of time away from work and school, but streaming online may allow more participation.
I’ve done a quick Q&A with Professor David Lee so you can hear all about this ballot initiative he has spearheaded and what you can do to help make it a reality!
What is this ballot initiative you’ve proposed and what will it do exactly?
The ballot initiative will do three things:
· Require all policy body meetings in San Francisco be streamed online. Currently, the City only broadcasts two meetings at a time on television. Those two meetings are re-streamed to the City’s website, but no other meetings are streamed. If there are three meetings at once, the third isn’t broadcast or streamed. Some City meetings simply aren’t shown on TV or streamed.
· Allow for virtual public testimony during policy body meetings. People will be allowed to comment on agenda items from the comfort of their own homes or offices while meetings are taking place.
· Allow people to petition for time-certain agenda items. City policy bodies rarely start discussing agenda items on time, so our proposal states that if 50 people petition a policy body for an agenda item to start on time, that item must start on time.
How will this benefit everyday people and students?
Not everyone can make it out of class or work to visit a Board of Supervisors meeting at 2 pm on a Tuesday. Nor can most people make it to a meeting after 5 because they have family or work responsibilities.
This initiative will allow students and workers who can’t make it down to City Hall for various reasons to have a chance to participate in their government in a way that’s accessible to them.
Do you think this will realistically allow for agenda topics to be discussed on time?
If 50 people petition for agenda items to start on time, policy bodies will be required by the law to start them on time. This is going to make policy body members rethink how long they need to discuss certain items and what their priorities should be in their meetings.
What will participants need? A fast Internet connection, microphone, webcam?
The City will have six months from the passage of the ballot imitative to figure out exactly how to make this initiative’s requirements work, but we make it clear that people should be able to submit video or written testimony during meetings.
The exact technical specifications to make this all work are unknown at this time. At most, users will need a keyboard, a webcam, a microphone and broadband Internet connection, which are pretty common utilities these days.
How can people get involved? Where can they find a place to put their signature so this initiative can be qualified for the ballot?
People can go to sfopengovernment.com to tell us they want to sign the petition or volunteer on the campaign.