Remote meetings are good and bad; let’s keep the good 

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By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

Like everywhere else, it’s been a unique year in the history of the Sunshine Law in South County, with the county and cities holding meetings by videoconferencing.

The only government entity in South County that has not changed how it meets is the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors, which has continued to hold in-person meetings throughout the pandemic.

Meeting in person has some distinct advantages over meeting by videoconference, but there are also some advantages to meeting by Zoom that we hope our local governments keep even post-pandemic.

First, every government agency that has been meeting by video should continue with livestreams, posting meeting audio and other ways of getting the public involved in meetings, even if residents can’t make the actual in-person meeting. This is especially important in the Crestwood-Sunset Hills part of our readership area, because both those cities’ boards of aldermen meet at the exact same time as the local school district, Lindbergh Schools. And for our Oakville and unincorporated readers, St. Louis County meetings have never been more accessible. Public accountability is no longer a 52-mile roundtrip to Clayton away. It’s no coincidence that there has never been more participation in County Council meetings.

The county’s many associated boards, including the Police Board of Commissioners, the Port Authority and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, should continue to livestream meetings and committees whenever possible even after they no longer have to. Locally, we hope Lindbergh does the same.

Even as we once again return to life in person, there will be members of our community who are homebound or sick, have disabilities, young children or any other reason keeping them from congregating in person at a certain time and date. There’s no reason that these residents should not be able to follow along from home.

Whether they are doing it right now, did it pre-pandemic or haven’t started yet, government at all levels should continue livestreaming, posting audio and video and finding other ways to keep all community members informed, not just those who were able to make the meeting.