One of the persistent criticisms of the La Paz County Board of Supervisors over the years is that their public meetings are held on a weekday mid-morning when citizens tend to be at work or otherwise busy. This means that people don’t get a chance to attend meetings and see for themselves their local county government in action.
Now, one of the best solutions to this has finally been implemented: a live webcast of each regular meeting online, allowing people to watch anywhere. And it comes with an added benefit: a meetings archive which allow anybody to watch any previous meeting at any time.
“We’re excited to be able to provide the citizens of La Paz County this additional access to their county government,” said Duce Minor, speaking to Parker Live. “We’ll continue to tweak the system for a while.”
So far, two regular meetings have been streamed online in this way, and both have had a few audio problems as technical issues are worked out. But, mostly, the meetings are clearly audible, and viewers can see and hear remote participants also.
In video of the most recent meeting, Minor (District 2) can be seen chairing the meeting in person, while fellow Board member Holly Irwin (District 3) appeared remotely via Zoom and Board member David Plunkett (District 1) could be heard over the telephone. County Administrator Megan Spielman also attended the meeting via Zoom.
And watching meetings isn’t the only way the new system increases transparency. Meeting agendas now come with links to supporting documents, where citizens can see more information on how an agenda item came to the Board, and which documents pre-dated it.
For example, on September 20th, the supervisors approved an agreement relating to how tribal artifacts are handled on former BLM land which is in development as part of the Ten West Link, a power line project along I-10. It includes an agreement with the Colorado River Indian Tribes for monitoring tribal artifacts on-site with the aim of preserving them or handling them appropriately culturally, something which has been happening more in recent years as previously undeveloped desert land is converted into infrastructure projects. Under the new system, members of the public can go into more detail about the item on the agenda (Item 5d in this case) and then view the attached agreement in PDF format, which sets out exactly what is being agreed to and why.
It is an unprecedented amount of public access to this type of information in La Paz County.
This new virtual dimension to La Paz County government reflects a broader trend in local governments across the nation, and a similar trend in workplace life more generally during the COVID pandemic. There’s some debate about which of the trends will be permanent and which are temporary, but one thing is clear: the internet makes possible better access and more flexibility. There is no doubt that the founders of county government had no idea supervisors would one day be voting via video conference, but they would undoubtedly have approved of the way the internet has promoted access to local democracy in action.
How to watch the Board of Supervisors in action
Live and archived meetings can be found HERE. Just tap on ‘Board of Supervisors Regular Meeting’ for whichever date you want to watch, and a new tab will open with the meeting video. You may have to ‘unmute’ audio to hear what’s going on; to do this, tap the icon at the bottom of the video panel. If you don’t see it, tap anywhere on the video to see controls. Tap on ‘Full agenda’ to follow along. You’ll see some items in blue with a link to get more information about that item. Often there are attachments of supporting documents with much more information.