Attendance at City Council meetings can now be in-person or remote. Testimony may be given remotely or in-person, and all official City meetings are now live-streamed and archived on the City website.
Prior to the 2020 pandemic, the City had been working on plans to equip the Council Chambers with internal improvements of its outdated audio-visual (A/V) technology. These plans were improved over the past year when complete remote business was required. Remote operating tools opened even more possibilities for virtual attendance despite delaying plans to equip Council Chambers with A/V technology. In mid-June, the City began outfitting Chambers, and on June 28th, in-person meetings reconvened after 15 months of virtual meetings on Zoom.
Livestreaming has been made possible with video streaming options provided by the combination of Zoom, YouTube, and the non-profit Open Media Foundation (OMF). MaY Technologies assisted with the complex design and installation of the A/V equipment. The City’s website now has a public meeting video page for live-streamed and archived meeting video.
The City’s IT Manager Bill Bohn worked with OMF and MaY Technologies to create this system that not only makes viewing meetings more accessible and meeting presentations more visible to the public. It also offers more flexibility for presenting or offering testimony. In addition to Council and Planning Commission meetings, video conferencing capabilities can serve ad-hoc meetings and other needs.
“We created something fairly unique in the multimedia presentation world,” explains Bohn. “Usually, video broadcasting uses complicated video switching that comes with a high price tag. To keep a robust remote attendance option, we based our system on Zoom so presentation can be displayed from anywhere. For live-streaming and recording, we connect Zoom to YouTube as well as OMF.”
This progress has been years in the making. In 2018, the City adopted a five-year Information Technology (IT) Strategic Plan that outlined trends in municipal technology to guide the City in its investments. Developments to better engage the public included a new user-friendly website, increased use of social media, and equipment and software improvements in the organization. In addition, Council Chamber’s technology improvements were identified as a ripe opportunity for public engagement. Staff identified meeting live-streaming as a follow-up phase for its new website.
This past spring, Oregon House Bill 2650 passed, amending the state’s public meetings laws. Public meeting access and public participation may now be remote using technology, which means testimony can be given on or off location. Meeting schedules and access can be found on the City’s website Meetings page. With the Council Chambers’ new technology improvements, the timing couldn’t be better.