Superior City Council Eyes Ordinance Change On Meeting Structure
If the pandemic has been good for anything it's that we've all come to rethink the way we do business and go about our daily lives. Whether it's been attending school or working from home, modern computer technology has changed what's considered "normal". It's also safe to say that those changes won't be going away anytime soon - if ever.
That's what's behind the proposed changes to the way the Superior City Council does their business. At their meeting on April 7, the council will address changing the city ordinance to allow future use of technology for virtual (non-in person) meetings. This change would make the allowances made during the past year official and valid for the future.
According to an article in the Superior Telegram, virtual attendance has been allowed on a case-by-case situation by the council president: "Currently, city code allows members who can’t physically attend a meeting to phone in their votes on issues before the council at the discretion of the body’s president". This is the tactic that allowed the Superior City Council to continue governing throughout the past year.
While he wasn't initially a fan of making the virtual option permanent, Superior Mayor Jim Paine has evolved his opinion:
"A meeting is different when you’re not there. There’s a lot of value to both the individual member, to the body and to the public as a whole to actually, physically attend the meeting. Of course, you see and hear the meeting better. There’s a certain amount lost when you attend virtually. There’s a lot that gets communicated in the space. You can tell when they’re upset, when they support something. There’s a lot to be read right in the meeting. To some extent, I think they [the public] expect to look you in the eye and speak directly to you. They’re a human being. They want to have a real conversation with you. That’s harder to do through a screen or over the phone. Finally, it humanizes the meeting and makes general control of the meeting easier.”
News sources detail that Paine has since "recognize[d] that the council has had success in conducting city business through the pandemic using technology and there are times councilors simply cannot physically attend for very valid reasons".
At the April 7 meeting, the Superior City Council will consider making changes that would allow audio and videoconferencing, "provid[ing] the City Clerk's Office is notified 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Councilors wouldn’t be required to justify virtual attendance with council leadership. The same accommodations would be allowed for standing and special committees when a member is unable to attend in person". At the same time, virtual attendance "wouldn’t count toward the quorum so a meeting can’t take place unless most members are physically present. And virtual attendance and participation would not be allowed for any matter that requires a physical presence to observe witnesses or examine evidence".