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Limited Bighorn streaming could lead to less resident engagement

“This time around, I didn’t find our list of people wanting to sit on boards was very good. There were not so many new faces putting their names down. I think that if someone clicks on the MD YouTube page, and gets to watch these meetings, they may get more involved and more interested.”
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The MD of Bighorn YouTube Page. YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT

MD OF BIGHORN – With the Municipal District of Bighorn no longer streaming all committee meetings, there is disappointment but mostly understanding for those who watch the meetings.

Council was informed by administration in April that moving forward, only the Municipal Planning Commission, Subdivision and Development Appeal Board and council meetings would be live streamed for the public.

“It is sort of unfortunate it is happening, but I get why it is happening”, said Dead Man’s Flats Community Association president Chris Long. “It sounds like there are some staff shortages and I understand they are struggling with it.”

One member of council who questioned the decision was Joss Elford.

“For me, personally, I like them all streamed so I can look back and see a meeting that I might not have time to attend when it’s happening,” Elford said the following week. “I understand our staffing restraints right now and I don’t want to run our staff into the ground with this but moving forward I hope we can stream all meetings, not just the big three.”

At the meeting, CAO Robert Ellis stated that it was because of the staff time required and to prevent burnout.

“We were starting to see burnout, which was related to the additional workload of coordinating virtual meetings,” Ellis said. “This pause in streaming of our committee meetings has provided staff with a more manageable workload.”

Over the past two years, meetings have been streamed because of COVID-19 restrictions. With those restrictions lifted, the need to stream meetings decreased.

“My experience of watching some of these in the past and talking to other people, a lot of those discussions that wind up in council meetings that are recorded, are happening in those meetings that are not recorded,” Long said. “It would be nice to have access to that.”

Elford also expressed concern that the lack of streaming could impact the amount of people who become interested in MD matters. Elford stated that before he got on council, he applied to be on boards but was unsuccessful because the positions filled quickly.

“This time around, I didn’t find our list of people wanting to sit on boards was very good. There were not so many new faces putting their names down,” Elford said. “I think that if someone clicks on the MD YouTube page, and gets to watch these meetings, they may get more involved and more interested.”

Going back to May 12, 2020, most meeting streams on YouTube have a couple dozen views. The Municipal Planning Commission Meeting from Jan. 19, 2022 has the most views among committee meetings with 170.

“The MD’s most visited site is the Oral History Project with almost 1,500 views,” Ellis said.

“Looking into the YouTube channel, you can see people are using it,” Long said. “I think it is a nice way for people to find out about a particular issue that is going on without having to sit through the entire meeting.”

Council will look at the matter in the fall to determine if all meetings should be streamed, or possibly hiring a contractor to handle it.

“It looks like they are open to that conversation later and I think that if that is the case, it is fine and we should give them a pass,” Long said. “We all know how that stress has been going the last couple years and if they are at the point of burnout, then we should respect that.”

Elford offered a solution of only providing audio of the meetings as a possible solution.

“If we are having staffing constraints or feeling like our staff is being worked to the bone, then maybe we do a contractor system,” Elford said. “Even an alternative where we don’t stream it with a video feed, but an audio feed, so people can listen.”