March Data Viz: The Online Municipal Meeting Pivot

Every month, MAPC's Data Services department is releasing maps and data visualizations covering a range of vital and interrelated topics: equity, housing, transportation, climate, arts and culture, and more.

March’s visualization highlights reflections on virtual zoning and planning board meetings across the state: what's worked, what hasn't, and what lessons we can take from one another.

Click here to view the interactive version of the map above.

By the autumn of 2020, six months after the Governor’s executive order allowed public meetings to be held remotely in Massachusetts, by far most municipalities had made the switch. Then-Walpole Director of Community and Economic Development Ashley Clark, AICP surveyed her municipal planning peers across the state to gather insights about this unanticipated experiment in virtual government. This month’s visualization shares some of what she learned from the 102 responding municipalities.

Almost all of the 102 responding municipalities indicated that they continued to hold hearings during the pandemic, albeit virtually.

Remote hearings have seen increased public participation, according to about half of respondents. One reason might be that “attending” an online meeting is not an all-or-nothing decision.

Not every municipality has seen this uptick. Some have noticed a decline in attendance, potentially due to limits on potential participants’ technological resources. For those who lack adequate Internet access, sufficient hardware, or the necessary computer know-how, participating can be difficult or impossible.

Click through the slideshow of responses here!

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