Starting next week, Worthington residents will be able to watch from the comfort of their own homes as city leaders make decisions.
Worthington officials have been working for nearly six months to carry out a plan for live-streaming city meetings via worthington.org. In March, Worthington City Council approved funding for a plan to stream and archive meeting video through Texas-based company Swagit Productions LLC.
Over the summer, Swagit installed the necessary cameras and other equipment, and City Council's Sept. 4 meeting – its first since summer recess began in July – will serve as the debut of the live stream.
Anne Brown, a city spokeswoman and community-relations coordinator, said the program's completion is an important step toward improved communications with residents.
"It will allow us to be totally transparent, where people can tune in and watch the council meetings from everywhere," she said.
"It will really help inform people of different projects and how decisions are made. So we definitely see it as valuable for the community."
Brown said meetings would be streamed with audio and video at worthington.org/live.
On March 19, City Council approved $92,000 in funding for the first year of the program, most of which came from the city's Community Technology Fund, which is separate from the general fund. Maintaining Swagit's services is expected to cost about $30,000 a year.
But that's a small price to pay for council President Bonnie Michael, who said she hopes the addition of video helps to combat the idea that City Council isn't "transparent."
"I'm very happy this is coming to fruition," she said. "We've had citizens mention for a long time that they are not sure how transparent council is, and I don't know how much more transparent we can be than to stream meetings live so people don't have to leave their homes and can go online and see meetings."
Councilman David Robinson, who was elected in 2017, campaigned on the idea that City Council wasn't transparent enough and wasn't listening to voters.
He said he is "very supportive" of the addition of streaming meetings and he thinks it "makes our local government more present and accessible."
"I think the city ought to avail itself to every opportunity to reach out to the public, and I think this is perhaps an important way to do so," Robinson said. "I hope it's part of a broader outreach effort on the part of council, where we'll be looking at any means whereby we can understand voter sentiments and keep at the forefront the interests of the people we were elected to serve."
Recorded meetings will be archived on worthington.org/live, where visitors can search them by keyword or issue topic.
Michael said that's the portion of the new service she is most excited about. She said she hopes it helps more people stay connected to decision-making at the city, and she thinks it can be an easier entry point to getting involved.
"I think this really opens the door for those who are interested in city government to be able to have easy access to what happens at meetings," she said.
For more information, go to worthington.org.