Council should make public meetings public inclusive


(Editor’s Note: Viewpoint submissions on this and other topics are always welcome as part of our goal to encourage community discussion and exchange of perspectives.)

May 20, 2020 — I listened to and watched the live Florence City Council meeting May 18 via CPTV and was horrified at what I could not see.

The slides lacked clarity — fuzzy to say it best.  How is a citizen of Florence to understand what councilors and city staff are talking about if we can’t see the details on the slides?

This is unfair and certainly does not reinforce transparency. In addition, the only people visible were members of City staff in the council chambers while council members and the mayor were hidden from view except for their photo in front of where they normally would sit.

Secondly, the mayor declined to ask everyone to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Why? Just because we can’t all see the same flag doesn’t mean you dismiss this important beginning to any meeting of this kind in this country.

Heck, this is a standard operating procedure of the Florence Rotary Club that meets by ZOOM every Tuesday at noon.

I submitted an email May 18 to the City Recorder (with copies to council) asking that future public meetings, including City Council, be presented live via a format similar to ZOOM — and recorded for future viewing.

It’s unfair to citizens who cannot see our elected and appointed officials during public meetings.  I want to see faces and reactions to what is being said “as if” I were sitting in the audience at City Hall.

With this kind of format, the host of the meeting would allow citizens the opportunity for their three (3) minutes of verbal comments in full view of all who are watching.

The host would also have full control to “mute” when needed. 

Organizations worldwide are conducting business in this manner, we should as well. I received a reply to my request informing me that the “City Council has adopted updated public meeting policies which can be found on the City’s website at www.ci.florence.or.us/em/public-meeting-during-covid-19.”

Since these have been adopted, the City Council has not held general public comment on items that are not on the City Council agenda.

This is unfair. Those protocols don’t allow a public comment period on the agenda for meetings, including last Monday night, unless your submission relates to an item already on the agenda.

As a result, I was not able to read this as part of public comment at the recent City Council meeting. As with other Council correspondence of a general nature, the response was “[I] will forward your email to the full Council for their review and consideration.” 

Well, it seems the Mayor did not consider these written comments worthy of consideration since he said there are “no public comments” during Monday’s meeting.

It’s for these reasons that I strongly urge our citizens to reach out and demand our voices be heard and our elected officials be seen as if we were sitting right in council chambers. 

Let’s go live where we can invite the public to be a part of the process and actually see our officials in action.

On the plus side is the awesome staff who continuously inspire me with their dedication to our City.

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