Councilor Edwards files “Digital Democracy” package

(BOSTON, March 15, 2021) – Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards has filed a pair of measures aimed at making city government more transparent, accessible, and modern. The first is an ordinance filed with Councilor Liz Breadon that would allow for permanent remote participation from the public during city meetings.

“The inaccessibility of most government meetings is a pre-pandemic inequity that we can’t go back to,” said Councilor Edwards. “As we come out of the pandemic I’m focused on ensuring our city’s government is as transparent and accessible as possible. Permanently allowing residents to participate virtually would make it easier for a wider range of voices to be heard and bring our city’s government one step closer to the standards residents expect from us.”

“Over the last year, we have seen productive local neighborhood meetings held entirely online,” said Councilor Breadon. “Digital access to government and civic meetings makes our city more democratic. We cannot miss this opportunity to bring in the voices of caregivers and others who are not able to attend in-person meetings.”

The ACLU of Massachusetts praised the proposed ordinance.

“Local democracy works best when all of us are able to engage,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “Providing Bostonians with the option to remotely participate in city government meetings makes local government more accessible for residents with disabilities, and those who may not have access to reliable transportation, have caretaking responsibilities, or are unable to take a leave of absence from work, among other daily challenges. We commend Councilor Edwards and Councilor Breadon for their leadership and their commitment to expanding and deepening resident engagement with the democratic process.”

Councilor Edwards is also co-sponsoring a hearing order with Councilor Ed Flynn to review and discuss the city’s digital infrastructure and how it could be upgraded to be more accessible.

“I want to make it easier for residents to go online and interact with city government,” said Councilor Edwards. “Right now it’s too difficult to pay bills, apply for permits, or find information. We need to ensure that we’re investing in the digital infrastructure necessary to expand online language access and make Boston a national leader in having a modern and transparent city government. I want to thank Councilors Breadon and Flynn for their partnership on these important issues. I look forward to working with them and stakeholders on improving the services offered by our city’s government.”

“Our residents are increasingly reliant on accessing city services and resources electronically, so it is critical that our city government have a strong digital infrastructure in place that allows our residents to easily access what they need from the city through the internet,” said Councilor Flynn. “I want to thank Councilor Edwards for her partnership on this issue. I look forward to working with Councilor Edwards and other stakeholders to discuss how our city government can best provide services and resources digitally, including making sure that the city website can be easily navigated, that information is transparent, and that digital city services have multiple language options.”

Both measures will be introduced during Wednesday’s (3/17) council meeting and assigned to a committee for hearings to be held.