The city of Cortez has added a website feature that officials hope will increase government transparency in 2018.
In August, City Manager Shane Hale told the City Council that he had been researching software created by Colorado nonprofit Open Media Foundation, which works to make recordings of government meetings more accessible to the public. In late October, the city quietly added a livestream feature to its website, which allows visitors to watch each City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meeting online. Archived recordings also allow viewers to skip to agenda items that interest them.
The new feature costs $6,000 per year to maintain, but Open Media is paying half the cost, according to Cortez special events coordinator Jon Brooks. He said in an email that the city hasn’t received much feedback from residents about the livestream, but he plans to start marketing it in January, along with other upcoming changes to the website. City Manager Shane Hale said he’s pleased with the feature so far.
“Anybody who I’ve had go on the site and check it out, loves it,” he said. “It does work really slick.”
The livestream and all archived meeting videos can be found under the “Government” tab on the city website, by clicking “Agendas and Minutes.”
This is just the beginning of a major remodel of the city website planned for next month. Mayor Karen Sheek said the relaunch is designed to make the site easier to navigate, and it will include a better search engine, among other improvements. She said she believes the livestream feature is an important step in improving the city government’s transparency.
“The city is really working to make sure that citizens have access to the government,” she said. “None of this is done in a closet somewhere or a backroom.”
While she praised the livestream feature as a helpful tool for city residents, Sheek also said she would like to see more people show up in person for city meetings.
Hale said the new website will be launched in early January, and the City Council will go through a tutorial on the changes during one of the first workshops of the new year.