S.F. State Students, Professor Push Initiative to Live Stream City Meetings

A promotional card for initiative campaign to require San Francisco to live stream all public meetings.  (Amy Mostafa/KQED)

Editor's note: This post contains a correction.

Some students at San Francisco State want to make it easier for residents to participate in all the city's public meetings -- and they've taken the first big step toward making their idea reality.

Professor David Lee and students from his political science class turned in more than 16,000 petition signatures on Wednesday for a ballot initiative that would require all city government public meetings to be streamed live.

The idea for the initiative -- dubbed the Sunshine and Open Government Act -- originated in Lee’s American Politics class this past spring, when students were asked to consider ways to increase public engagement within local government.

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The proposal, backed by the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, which Lee heads, would also require city agencies to set firm times to discuss specific agenda items and make it possible for online viewers to comment remotely during meetings.

Lee says the bill would benefit youth and other groups traditionally underrepresented in local government. This includes Asian-Americans, who constitute 18 percent of voters in San Francisco.

The city currently live streams Board of Supervisors and a limited number of other meetings through its SFGovTV website.

Fawwaz Fikkeri, one of the students who helped draft the proposal, said he hoped the initiative would increase the representation of young people at City Hall.

“To know what you want for the future, you need more youth to be there,” Fikkeri said.

The initiative needs about 10,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. If the measure qualifies and voters approve it in November, the city would have six months to implement it.

In response to concerns about the cost of live streaming the meetings, Lee said it would cost “pennies” relative to the city’s budget. The estimated cost, based on a current bid from a live streaming firm, is expected to fall between $75,000 to $100,000 annually.

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Correction: This post originally contained a statement from Professor David Lee suggesting that meetings of the city's Youth Commission are held during the school day and thus are not accessible to students. In fact, all commission meetings are scheduled after the close of the school day. More information on the commission and its calendar is available here: San Francisco Youth Commission.

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