Haverhill City Council Endorses Internet-Based Public Meeting Participation Concept

(File photograph.)

A plan for using the internet to make city government more accessible to the citizens of Haverhill was enthusiastically endorsed by the Haverhill City Council at last night’s meeting.

The program, called People Speak, was developed by a company in Colorado to allow members of the community to interact with elected officials. Travis Parker, a representative of the company, gave councilors an overview of how the software works.

“It really does two things. It allows people to participate from wherever they are. It also removes the time constraint. So, a traditional public hearing requires somebody to be available, you know, at 7 o’clock on a Tuesday night. The idea behind this site was to take away that constraint. So the idea is that when citizens get a notice about your public hearings, they’re not just told, ‘you can come down to council chambers,’ but also that they can go to your website,” he explained.

Parker went on to say the community can access agenda items and comment on them before and during a meeting. It also allows for live streaming of any meetings on the website. He said the program is designed around open meeting laws and gives everyone access to all information.

The councilors expressed eagerness to give the program a try. Councilor William J. Macek recently introduced the concept, which was endorsed by the Council’s Administration and Finance Committee.

“It really, to me, is a great opportunity for us to almost get ahead of the curve for the first time, rather than always trying to catch up to it,” he said.

Macek also noted that the program, which costs $1,600 per monthly, is almost certainly covered by COVID-19 money from the state.

The Council voted unanimously to send a letter to the mayor asking him to implement the program as quickly as possible.

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