The Hope Select Board is eliminating online broadcasts of meetings, it says, because no one is watching anyway.

This is the wrong move for Hope and it is the wrong move for any other towns that have begun broadcasting public meetings and are thinking about pulling back from that.

Posting videos of select board, planning board, school board and committee meetings offers a wide range of citizens easy access to the work elected officials are doing. It offers transparency for local governments and can serve to educate residents who will be asked to vote on questions in town meetings and at the polls.

In the past few years we saw some local municipalities enter into contracts with Town Hall Streams. This service allows members of the public to view meetings at their leisure and includes some long-term archival options as well. It is a little expensive, but it is not the only streaming service available. Other local towns use YouTube or Vimeo.

These videos may not be viewed by many members of the local public, but we would argue that is not really the point. The point of these broadcasts should be to encourage more people to watch the meetings, learn what is happening where they live and see how their elected leaders operate.

In five years we will still be able to watch a recording of the Thomaston Select Board candidate night from May, the Rockport Planning Board meeting from September, the Union Ambulance Advisory committee meeting from October or even Camden’s Megunticook Watershed Forum from 2021.

While the threat of everlasting online shame should not be the sole reason leaders behave themselves, it might be the extra bit of encouragement some need.

These streaming services also provide access for journalists. We are smaller in number than we once were, and may have multiple meetings scheduled for the same nights. Quick online access to recent votes helps us get what is going on in the towns out to the reading public.

The traditional argument from public officials has been, “If you care about this, you need to come to meetings.” Public officials like to see people attend select board and planning board meetings. That is not always possible, though.

Many people now have to work long hours to make enough to afford life in Midcoast Maine. They may not have time or energy left in the evenings to turn out for public meetings. They may have small children who cannot be left alone or brought to the meeting, a disability that keeps them house-bound, a broken-down vehicle or even no vehicle at all.

These people may tune in on the computer, and what is wrong with that? Should they be denied access to their local government meetings because of these issues, just to save a few hundred dollars a month?

During the pandemic, we saw participation in local government increase through the use of technology.

Why circle the wagons now and prevent information from leaking out to the populace online?

It seems likely that part of the push to get rid of broadcasting meetings online is to decrease the number of pesky eyes from the fourth estate and local voters. If anyone is going to find out what is going on in town, make them work for it.

We urge local towns to make their meetings available online and start thinking like it is the 21st century. We encourage residents to contact their local leaders about this issue as well. Find out if your town is broadcasting meetings, and find out why if it is not.

Without the light of public scrutiny on public business, what will we get?

Familiar faces

This week, we are pleased to feature the return of David Grima’s Rockland Gothic and the debut of a new column by Shlomit Auciello.

We welcome Grima back to the fold with open arms. We knew he could not stay away.

Auciello’s new column will focus on living within a smaller budget, whether that is money, energy or time. Certainly we can all use some advice about that.

Remembering Rosa Parks

This day in history: “In Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation laws,” according to History.com. “The successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., followed Park’s historic act of civil disobedience.”

Also on this day in history, according to History.com: Chunnel makes breakthrough.

“Shortly after 11 a.m. on December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole – it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years.”