Mount Pleasant Town Council embraces technology to keep you in the know

Mount Pleasant Mayor Linda Page

MOUNT PLEASANT - Live-streamed council meetings, complete with podcasts and a video archive. Reformatted agendas. And a "Civics 101" flier to explain how this town's government works.

All were approved last week as part of Town Council's efforts to increase transparency.

Mayor Linda Page set the changes in motion by asking town staff, residents and Councilman Chris Nickels to review what could be done to ensure the town is doing all it can to explain its decision-making.

"Over and over again, I've heard from citizens that they didn't feel like they fully understood the issues we were going to be voting on," she said.

The town has been quick to embrace new media technologies. Its website had more than 4.6 million page views during the past year, and 10,987 people have signed up for the town's "Notify me" email service. Its Facebook page has 25,256 likes.

But its written agendas - currently done all in bold type with a heavy dollop of legalese - have changed little since the dawn of Microsoft Word. They soon will change with new fonts, type sizes and formatting - as well as live web links for those reading them online.

And those viewing them online also will find a "tool kit" containing the town's codes, zoning laws and property tax maps.

An even bigger change might be the new camera at Town Council meetings. Currently, these meetings have been televised on Comcast Channel 60, but Page noted not everyone is a Comcast customer. The town experimented with live-streaming its meeting in December and soon plans to broadcast meetings to anyone with an Internet connection.

These webcasts also will be archived so residents can view them at a later date, said town Communications Officer Martine Wolfe-Miller.

"You can be running or jogging during the day and listen to Town Council meetings," she said.

Also, the webcasts - unlike Comcast's broadcast - will zoom in on town officials who are speaking.

"I see no downside," Nickels said of these webcasts, "other than if you had spinach for lunch you might want to brush and floss."

These webcasts - which will be available long after the meeting ends - will have another advantage missing over written meeting minutes.

"Government is often about disagreement and discord," Page said. "Sometimes, the emotion that goes along with something we're dealing with helps the citizens understand their elected body."

The town's Police, Legal and Judiciary Committee approved the changes Monday, and they also will be presented to full council for review on Jan. 13.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.