Citizens of Jefferson County could only imagine the discussion and debate that happened when commissioners assembled for their committee meetings.
The five representatives meet in a board room around the corner from their offices with their respective staffs, the county attorney, the county manager and his staff and perhaps a few others.
But Tuesday’s commission committee meeting ushered in a new age for Jefferson County citizens, who were given a peek inside the proceedings courtesy of Commissioner Lashunda Scales.
The commission president pro tem brought livestreaming to the business of Jefferson County as a member of her staff broadcast the committee meeting via the internet. She promises to continue to practice with internet broadcasts of future committee meetings and full commission meetings.
“It is long overdue for Jefferson County to take advantage of innovative technology,” Scales says. “While educating the general public on the county’s governmental process, which in turn creates a greater level of transparency and trust among our citizenry.”
Terri Sharpley Reynolds is the director of public affairs for the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. She did not know how many commissions broadcast their meetings but said it is a practice that is spreading.
“I can tell you that many of them do or are considering doing it,” she says. “There’s really no statutory obligation for them to do it. But it’s something that several counties have opted to do as a way to ensure the public has even more access to the meetings and the business of county government.”
With her interest piqued, Reynolds said ACCA may survey the state’s 67 counties to see how many broadcast their meetings.
“A lot of counties are and if they’re not already doing this, they’re kind of considering the pros and cons of doing it and the logistics of doing,” she says.
This is the second time Scales has opened the windows of government to give citizens a look inside. As a member of the Birmingham City Council in 2015, she sponsored a resolution to provide access to live, unedited city meetings via social media.