UPDATE: Following the publication of this editorial and an earlier article, a spokesperson for the city of Tucker said city officials are revisiting this decision. We hope they will ultimately to decide to continue streaming meetings. To read the latest information about this topic, click here.
Tucker, GA — The city of Tucker recently decided to end livestreaming of its public meetings after months of streaming them due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The next City Council meeting on Aug. 9 will be held in person. The public won’t have an opportunity to attend them virtually.
Tucker’s justification is the end of Gov. Brian Kemp’s public health emergency order.
City Manager Tami Hanlin said, “The original decision to broadcast meetings via Zoom was due to the Governor’s emergency orders pertaining to public meetings. Because those orders have expired, we are going back to our normal pre-pandemic protocols.”
But it’s common knowledge that we are nowhere near done with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, we are entering into a surge driven largely by unvaccinated people contracting a more transmissible strain of the disease. Reporter Logan Ritchie notes DeKalb County is slacking on vaccinations, with only 44 percent of our residents being fully vaccinated. Forcing residents indoors to attend public meetings under these conditions is an inexcusable lack of leadership from Tucker officials. It could lead to more infections and deaths among its residents.
The expiration of the governor’s order is no reason to end live-streaming of these meetings. The streaming technology is easy to use and affordable. Streaming the meetings is well within Tucker’s budget and technical know-how. The decision to end live-streaming is not consistent with what other municipalities with less resources are doing. Many are finding ways to keep this aspect of their meetings intact, including smaller ones without the resources Tucker has.
Given that budgets and technology are clearly not a consideration, we can only draw one conclusion from Tucker’s decision: its elected leaders prefer less transparency and public scrutiny of their actions.
This is not the first time the city has been a step-behind in its leadership on the pandemic. While other cities were adopting mask mandates, Tucker steadfastly refused, opting for a campaign of encouraging people to use masks while cases in Tucker’s zip code soared.
Once again, Tucker has been presented with an opportunity to show leadership on a matter of public health and once again Tucker has opted to take the most convenient approach to the problem.
This decision is shortsighted, shameful and it will put Tucker residents, particularly those with unvaccinated or immunocompromised people at home, at risk.
Tucker’s leaders should reverse this foolish decision and allow the public to continue viewing meetings online for the foreseeable future. In fact, there’s no reason the city ever has to stop streaming its meetings. Once the pandemic is gone, the live-streamed meetings will still be valuable to residents who want to tune in and learn more about their city government. We unfortunately are not all gifted with the means to attend lengthy public meetings to observe the behavior of our local elected officials.
But Tucker has been gifted with the means to stream these meetings, and the city has chosen not to.
There are city elections coming up this year on Nov. 2. It is our hope that the candidates running for those seats make it clear that live-streaming of meetings should continue. We also hope they will hold our current public officials accountable for their failure to take this basic step to ensure public health and safety during a deadly pandemic.
The Tucker Observer is a new community news website owned by Decaturish.com. We provide locally sourced news about Tucker, Clarkston and Stone Mountain.
Want the latest news from the Tucker Observer delivered to your inbox every morning? Click here to sign up for our free daily newsletter.
To become a paying supporter of Tucker Observer, click here.