Prompted by the pandemic, city and county governments expanded attendance to public meetings through means other than turning out in person. The trend should continue even when the health crisis concludes.
Residents wanting to stay safe but informed readily embraced the new formats: livestreaming, telephone attendance, videoconferencing, real-time access through social media, and other platforms.
Many governmental entities already providing remote coverage of council meetings and commissioners courts added invites to planning, zoning, architectural reviews, town halls, historical commissions and so on.
Proponents of transparency in government feared a suspension last spring of open-meeting laws due to COVID-19 represented a danger to democracy. There have been lapses, which need to be addressed.
Meanwhile, a Governor’s Broadband Development Council report highlights the need for more high-speed internet connectivity in Texas, especially in underserved areas. When the 87th Legislature convenes in January, a top priority should be ensuring broadband access for all Texans.
After in-person attendance eventually returns, enhanced remote viewing should be maintained, too, to keep government deliberations open to a wider audience.