Council Committee Endorses Plan for Interactive Haverhill Government Meetings Online

(File photograph.)

A group of city councilors endorsed a plan Tuesday night for using the internet to get Haverhill residents more involved with their government.

That plan uses a software program developed by People Speak of Colorado that allows community members to interact with elected officials from the comfort of their living rooms. Travis Parker, a People Speak representative, told the Administrative and Finance Committee that the program not only provides a means of remote interaction but also gives citizens the ability to do so whenever they want.

“They’ll get a chance to see meetings that are upcoming, with agenda items, and see that the agenda items are open for public comment. People in your community have more than just the evening of the vote to process that information. They can watch it in the days before the hearing,” Parker said.

Parker said the program also allows for live streaming of the meetings when they take place and community members may comment during those meetings, as well as before and after. The platform also notifies citizens when officials read their comments. He said one city saw a 10-fold increase in citizen participation after adopting the program. He also said they found more younger people getting involved.

The committee members were overwhelmingly in favor of the program. Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien explained it would allow them to take their messages directly to the public.

“I think, in essence, what we would get is control over our own narrative. It won’t be what a local newspaper says. It won’t be what is posted on social media. It won’t be somebody’s opinion of what you said. It will be what you said. I would thoroughly enjoy that,” she said.

The cost of the program that would include all government meetings is $1,600 monthly. Councilor William J. Macek, however, made the point that with COVID-19 money available right now, the city could, in essence, have a free trial at least through January.

The Committee members agreed and voted to bring the proposal to the mayor, city clerk and chief of staff as well as the full City Council for approval.

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