Our coalition of good government, disability rights, and free press organizations feels strongly that public boards and other bodies should continue to provide remote access and participation when they resume in-person meetings. We couldn’t agree more with the conclusion of your Aug. 1 editorial, “Make remote access to public meetings permanent”: “Given that the technology exists to hold public meetings online, then there’s really no reason why Massachusetts should not transition to a permanent hybrid system. For many cities and towns, particularly the smaller ones, making this change in how government work is done will require infrastructural improvements. But what better time could there be for that investment?”
We were, therefore, stunned when Governor Baker vetoed $30 million authorized by the Legislature to provide that very hybrid meeting infrastructure. Remote access to public meetings has significantly increased public participation in state and local government and has lowered barriers for people with disabilities, with limited access to transportation, and with work and family obligations. We cannot go back to requiring that people be physically present to participate in their local government.
Our organizations and several others, including the ACLU of Massachusetts, Common Cause Massachusetts, the Disability Law Center, the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the New England First Amendment Coalition, strongly urge the Legislature to override the governor’s veto and assure wide access to local government.
Legislative director, MassPIRG
Chair, Boston Center for Independent Living
President, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts