Somerville, Mass. streaming Board of Alderman meetings

by

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone

By Joseph A. Curtatone, mayor, and John Connolly, chairman, Board of Aldermen, Somerville, Mass. 

Last week Somerville became the first city in the state to stream its Board of Aldermen meeting live on the Internet. While that has a certain wow factor for those of us involved, we’re keeping our focus on where this technical step forward can lead us. 

One of the challenges municipal government has faced in recent decades is getting citizen participation. People lead busy lives and that makes it difficult to stay on top of what’s happening with your local government. And we’re competing with international, federal and state issues for the sliver of time people can devote to staying plugged into what’s happening in the world around them. 

Board of Alderman Chairman John Connolly

If we don’t make ourselves more accessible we risk losing the citizen input that is vital to properly doing our jobs as elected officials. We feel this even more acutely in Somerville, where approximately 42 percent of the population is age 21-35. A big slice of our population is relatively new to our city and unfamiliar with the issues we face inside the city government. Yet they are wired. If we want to bring those younger adult residents into the fold, we have to connect with them on their terms. 

Fortunately we’re doing more than just streaming the aldermen’s meetings. The meetings are available on demand after their conclusion. They will also be segmented by topic, allowing online viewers to go straight to the portions of the meeting that most interest them. So our residents will be able to watch the meetings from any location where they can get an Internet connection, whenever they want, and only the parts of the meetings they wish to watch. 

Our hope is we can build from here. We have opportunities to link the archived video with our own content (media- and document-based). Social media tie-ins seem like a natural next step. And hopefully this evolves in ways we haven’t anticipated. That will mean we’ve got brand new conduits into our community, which is what we really want to build here. 

 

 

 

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