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Information is power … maybe that’s the problem

Information is power … maybe that’s the problem

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One thing that has come out of this awful pandemic is that Franklin County has been forced head-first into the 21st century … sort of.

While roughly one-third of the county’s residents do not have access to internet, high-speed or otherwise, the county’s broadband authority has continued its work to bring internet to more residents, including the areas of Snow Creek, Ferrum and Union Hall.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic sent children home from schools to participate in online learning, and some workers were sent home to work virtually. The good news is some found they can do their jobs from home if they need to.

Councils, boards and government groups found that they could stream their meetings online and residents could watch from the safety of their homes. Something cities and towns across the United States already knew.

Yes, elsewhere in the world — even Roanoke — council and board meetings are online and stay online for residents to watch at their leisure. It was great to see the towns of Rocky Mount and Boones Mill stream their meetings for residents during the pandemic, but both have stopped. Why?

Franklin County Board of Supervisors began uploading their meetings to YouTube and the videos (mostly) remain online for residents to go back to. The supervisors also continue to stream their meetings live for residents. Kudos to them.

This is a practice that all governments, elected boards and councils should be participating in. There should be links on their websites to the meeting videos right along with the agendas and minutes. Not everyone can attend a meeting at the designated time, but may still have an interest. The pandemic has made this even more important, because with social distancing practices not as many people can enter the meeting chambers at one time as evidenced by last month’s board of supervisors meeting.

Residents were escorted in a few at time, because there was a cap of 40 people allowed inside at one time. Many residents attended to speak and listen on one particular topic — the fate of the Confederate statue that stands in front of the courthouse. However, not everyone could hear the entire discussion or other people’s comments because once they spoke, in order to allow others to come in and speak to the board, they had to leave. Having these videos online gives residents a chance to stream the meeting or pull it up when they get home and listen to others’ viewpoints and the discussion the board members had.

Recent school board meetings have been livestreamed, but then the videos disappear. According to the division’s website, the meetings are to be made available on the division’s Facebook page and website. The videos never appear on the Facebook page, and while they may appear on the website for a time, they disappear quickly.

We’d like to see this practice change. Much like the county’s access to broadband is changing we need to improve our communication with residents, in the towns and county.

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