Local Cities Rethink Council Meetings
As governments close public places due to the coronavirus outbreak, city councils are having to rethink how they hold their meetings. Northwest metro area councils are taking widely different approaches based on their particular needs and anticipated council attendance.
Brooklyn Park canceled its March 16 meeting by preventing a quorum. Council members were asked to stay away from city hall. Mayor Jeff Lunde used the regular council meeting time to make a special announcement explaining the cancellation.
“We want to take every precaution, not only for members of the public but also for our staff,” said Lunde, who also addressed the closure of Brooklyn Park’s city hall this week.
The city is working on a plan to reopen city hall next week to provide essential services.
“We are diligently working on how we are going to continue to serve the public and make sure that we are providing service as needed for core functions.”
Council Going Digital
Golden Valley will hold its meeting as scheduled tonight, March 17, but in light of the coronavirus, they are going digital. Mayor Shep Harris posted a video to Twitter explaining his city’s plans for handling the outbreak.
With Golden Valley City Hall closed, the council will meet electronically using conferencing software called WebEx. City Communications Director Cheryl Weiler said the setup will be “as close as we can get it to an in-person meeting.”
They’ll even have remote public participation. People wishing to address the council can call into the WebEx meeting at 415-655-0001. Once connected, they’ll enter the code 805 422 661 to join the council meeting. They’ll then be put into a queue and called on when it’s time for them to speak. Each citizen will be given three minutes to speak. Full details on how to participate are available here.
Harris says the city is prepared to conduct meetings this way for as long as necessary.
“I do think it’s sustainable,” he said. “We have the technology. What it will come down to is everyone collectively being patient, understanding, and frankly adjusting to the situation.”
Counting on lower numbers
Robbinsdale will hold its council meeting, also tonight, March 17, in city hall as usual. But in consideration of the novel coronavirus, the city is encouraging citizens not to attend in person. Instead, they can watch the meeting live here.
Mayor Regan Murphy says with the small size of his council, if the public doesn’t attend they’ll be below the recommended number of people in the same room.
“We’re pretty confident right now,” Murphy said. “We know people are staying home and avoiding large groups. We anticipate city hall to have less than 10 people tonight. We’re going to continue to follow the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC recommendations.”
The unified message from all of the cities CCX News talked to was that while the public should take the coronavirus outbreak seriously, there’s no need to overreact; while council meetings might be affected by the pandemic, essential city services such as police and fire will continue unabated.
“We are prepared,” said Golden Valley’s Harris. “But we cannot afford to panic. We cannot afford to hoard supplies and food. We need to be patient. We need to be understanding. We need to support our friends, family, neighbors. We need to support our food shelves. And those who are going to be in vulnerable situations.”
For more area coronavirus coverage from CCX News, click here.
Brandon Bankston, Reporting