If the aim is to make participation in local government easier, then the City of Superior  succeeded with the recent changes they made to the rules that oversee special boards and committees.  The ordinance they recently passed allows for more flexibility in participation requirements.

At their meeting on November 16, the Superior City Council okayed the ordinance changes that "allow members of special committees to attend and fully participate by phone or videoconferencing in most circumstances". The ordinance makes what had become standard operating procedure during the pandemic official.

According to an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], the major change involves what constitutes quorum:

"During the city's pandemic-driven state of emergency, a physical presence wasn't required to achieve the two-thirds of committee members present to conduct a meeting.  When the state of emergency ended in May, the council revised its ordinance on how meetings could be conducted.  Those changes included allowing audio and videoconferencing participation but requiring a physical presence of two-thirds of the members for a meeting to occur."

Invariably, a number of obstacles come up along the way that hamper the ability for the general public to take an easier role in government proceedings.  Superiors Mayor Jim Paine explains:

"We've had a lot of problems with the boards and commissions that are primarily staffed by citizens.  A number of them struggle to make quorum for a number of reasons that we really have to accommodate.  Some of them have actual disability-related reasons where they can't come in.  And for many others, it's just the most convenient way to get here."

As the Telegram outlines, the mayor "proposed relaxing the quorum requirements to make sure the business of the city gets done and the city can still attract residents who want to serve".

Superior, WI city limits road sign with population
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

While the changes will apply to the outer-rung committees and boards, the new rules outlines in the ordinance wouldn't apply to the city council or the six standing councils; the standing councils are made up of members the council as a whole - and not private citizens.

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Additional conversation was held in regards to updating, upgrading, and providing technology as a resource to members of councils and committees.  Ultimately though, members of the city council decided that the two issues weren't tied together and therefore they moved forward with the changes that related to participation.

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