Central New York, Community, Government

Syracuse Common Council will start live streaming meetings online

Next month, Syracuse will begin live streaming Common Council meetings online, in partnership with PBS affiliate WCNY. (c) Rashika Jaipuriar 2018

Video Transcript: Syracuse will start live streaming Common Council meetings online SCRIPT

By Rashika Jaipuriar Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News) — Starting next month, Syracuse residents won’t have to worry about parking in downtown or missing work to make it to a common council meeting.

Councilor Steve Thompson first brought up the idea of live-streaming two years ago. Now, his vision is becoming a reality. (c) Rashika Jaipuriar 2018.

On Monday, the Common Council agreed unanimously to record and live-stream any meetings in the Common Council chambers, in partnership with WCNY. This includes not only the biweekly meetings, but also their study sessions held before the meetings.

In fact, Councilor Steve Thompson said that’s when most of the discussion happens.

“You have more dialogue going on then,” Thompson said.

Syracuse resident Donna Koster Kuzio said she sees the benefit of live-streaming, but yesterday she specifically came in person to discuss her issue with councilors. Kuzio is trying to get her Central Technical High School, her alma mater, recognized as a historical site, and she hopes the face-to-face interaction will help her cause.

“The more people that you know the wider the spectrum of influence you can have,” Kuzio said.

Donna Koster Kuzio was at the Common Council meeting on March 26th to discuss her ‘protected site plan’ for her Central Technical High School. (c) Rashika Jaipuriar 2018

Kuzio said with the live-streaming, she’ll watch the meetings online occasionally because it’s as simple as reading the daily news or checking the weather.

And that’s the kind of accessibility Thompson wants.

“The meetings are at noon, 1 o’clock,” Thompson said. “Let’s face it, this isn’t going to be something that a lot of people are going to sit down and try to watch like one of the new shows ‘Instinct’.”

But he hopes that through online live-streaming, people will be able to tune in to the particular issues that matter to them.

“It seemed to me that we can look at our iPhones, we can look at our phones, we can see what’s going on everywhere,” Thompson said. “But the city government didn’t have that accessibility.”

Common council members prepare for their meeting on March 26, 2018. (c) Rashika Jaipuriar 2018

With this initiative, Syracuse is joining a list of other cities in live-streaming, including New York City, Chicago, Austin, and Seattle. And going online has had a big reach. According to ‘Livestream,’ nearly 7 million people watched politically-focused streams on its platform from November 2016-2017.

For the local impact, Thompson hopes live-streaming will put a new twist on civic engagment. He said just because people aren’t flooding the Common Council chambers every week, it doesn’t mean they’re not being politically active elsewhere.

“Civic engagement is large actually, but it’s sort of hidden,” Thompson said. “Twitter (for example) is a big motivator of civic engagement. Likewise, hopefully (live streaming) will get more people engaged.”

The Common Council voted 9-0 on the March 26th agenda’s last item, regarding live streaming public meetings.