This is the first in a three-part solutions journalism series about how – and why – local municipalities are live-streaming their public meetings. Part II will publish on Thursday and Part III will publish on Friday.
FREDERICKTOWN — In October 2021, Knox Pages held an hour-long community engagement event in Fredericktown called “Talk the Vote.”
It was held at the Mill Street Nature Center, and its purpose was to allow residents to shape the narrative heading into election season. They were able to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas about the village and its future – and while elected officials were invited to attend, they were only allowed to listen.
Around 20 residents attended the Fredericktown session. And while various topics were brought up – population growth, infrastructure, public safety – one common theme ran throughout the discussion:
Transparency and communication with the public.
Several of the residents who attended the session said they felt in-the-dark and out-of-the-loop when it came to government decision-making. That went for the school district and the village itself.
In the year-plus since this conversation, Fredericktown Local Schools has partnered with the Fredericktown Community Development Foundation (FCDF) to increase communication and collaboration between the school district and community.
The village has taken steps forward as well. Fredericktown renovated its website in the fall of 2021, in an effort to make government-related information more accessible. Through a public-private partnership, the village installed a digital sign outside the municipal building in the fall of 2022, showing upcoming meetings and community events.
These measures joined other communication strategies the village had already implemented, such as posting regularly from its official Facebook account and publishing articles in the FCDF’s 43019 Magazine, which goes out monthly.
Now, the question is this: What else could the village do to increase transparency and community involvement?
A look around the county might offer an answer.
Two municipalities, Mount Vernon and Gambier, live-stream their public meetings. This is something Fredericktown does not do (nor does Centerburg and Danville).
What would it take for Fredericktown to start?
Knox Pages spoke with officials from Mount Vernon and Gambier to find out. Look for stories on Thursday and Friday about how each municipality made it work.