Increasing participation important


It’s no secret but the coronavirus has thrown most of us — if not all — for a loop or two, maybe even a several more.

As the months have come and faded away, we’ve had to adapt to changes in just almost every aspect of our lives. We’re being told those changes may be permanent, becoming part of the "new normal."

The outbreak of COVID-19 started in late winter and blossomed into stay-at-home orders and closed restaurants, stores and other businesses in the spring.

At the same time, city and town councils, school and library boards and other governmental units had to change the way they did business while continuing to serve the public, which is the reason for their existence.

In the early days, meetings were canceled, but it didn’t take long for most governing bodies to figure out how to hold necessary meetings electronically. Before long, almost every meeting was offered electronically.

Ironically, there had been a move toward electronic meetings in the past, but it was trend that hadn’t taken hold many places especially in rural areas.

In the past, public attendance at most local meetings was generally sparse unless there was a hot button issue such as dogs running loose or a proposed hog operation under consideration.

Electronic meetings seem to have sparked more public participation perhaps because people could now sit in the comfort of their home and watch government in action.

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, recently said he anticipates legislation in the coming year to allow governmental units to hold meetings electronically as they have been doing during the pandemic.

While believe governing bodies still need to allow in-person meetings for the public, perhaps allowing them to also hold electronic meetings — or even requiring them to do so — is not a bad idea especially if it sparks more community participation.

Government officials also need to remember who elected them and make themselves available to the public as often as possible.

Greater community participation in local government affairs should always be the goal of those in public office.

While there may not have been a lot of good come out of the pandemic, perhaps this can be placed on the "pro" side.

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