SCSU faculty evaluate open budget meetings during COVID-19

Here’s a word you likely couldn’t have imagined pre-2020: Zoomocracy.

It’s the term coined by New Haven Independent editor Paul Bass summarizing recent research by Southern Connecticut State University faculty members Jodie Gil and Jonathan Wharton, associate professors in Journalism and Political Science.

Gil and Wharton evaluated how Connecticut towns and cities handled budget approvals in spring 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the world to restrict large gatherings. Many municipalities turned to Zoom and other video conferencing platforms to host budget discussions and try to engage people in the process, as would normally happen during a budget season.

Their research involved surveying 95 of the 169 municipalities in Connecticut, and analyzing four in more depth. They found that moving to virtual settings didn’t have an overall negative impact on public participation, and in fact, prompted some towns to reach out to residents more than they had in the past.

The paper recommends municipalities consider keeping pre-emptive disclosure of budget documents (something required with the shift to virtual meetings), and consultation with other towns as best practices emerge.

The research was published in the Journal of Civic Information in December 2020. Read the full article here.

The full interview with the New Haven Independent can be viewed below, or at this link.

Paul Bass interviewed Jonathan Wharton and Jodie Gil Jan. 20 about their research into open budget meetings during COVID-19.

The research was also featured in the Valley Independent Sentinel and WNPR’s Where We Live.