Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Local Governments Need to Resume In-Person Meetings

On February 17, South Whitehall Township's Board of Commissioners blocked over 100 members of the public from commenting during their regularly scheduled meeting. They were able to do this with impunity because it was a virtual meeting. I understand there's a pandemic. I completely agree that social distancing and masks are necessary. But this is now becoming an excuse to deprive the public from participating in their government in any meaningful way. I believe it's time to allow the public to attend meetings in person, subject to social distancing and masks. The spillover can participate virtually. 

In Northampton County, Council member John Cusick has urged an end to virtual meetings. He argues that if the courthouse is open to employees and public, so should meetings. If the county can conduct a capital murder case without issue, it should be able to conduct a council meeting. Council members should be present in person. In Northampton County, persons who desire access must be masked and social distance. They are temperature checked. An air purification system kills any and all viruses. If there is an overflow, they can watch the meeting in a separate room. This is what happened in a the Holmes murder case. 

This disconnect between elected officials and the citizens they serve is bad government. Elected officials should be interacting personally with members of the administration and public. 

Some municipalities are still closed to the public. That's ridiculous and needs to end. 

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

So there is what you think and what the CDC thinks. No thanks, You and Cusick lose.

Anonymous said...

Public meetings should have been open since last summer, subject to the social distancing and mask measures you mention. Unfortunately, local politicians and political bodies have shown once again that their priority is to themselves, not those who they serve.

I have long thought it interesting that the same "leaders" who have sent their employees into courtrooms, jails, nursing homes, police cars, fire trucks, etc. on a daily basis, couldn't find the courage and the means to provide real public access to their "public" meetings, which usually occur twice a month.

Unfortunately, this "bunker-mentality" has likely influenced the decisions they've made over the last year, and not in a good way.

In addition to the immediate opening of all local government meetings to actual public attendance (subject to the social distancing and mask requirements you cite) , I would argue that one more step should be taken.

Each political body should pass an ordinance calling for getting back to regular order without ANY social distancing, masking, or other such restrictions. The implementation date should not exceed 3 months from today's date.

After passage, implementation could be extended upon a majority vote of the political body within 15 days of the date that restrictions are scheduled to be completely lifted. I also would urge that any such extension(s) beyond the original measure not exceed 2 months.

That way, our "leaders" would remember what the ideal is; there would be an ongoing public discussion of what measures remain necessary and why they should remain in place a little longer; and those making the decision would go on the record as to their position on open meetings.

That would be a sign of real accountability and putting those they serve first. More importantly, it would foster discussion and put the priority on finding ways to get back to normal instead of remaining disconnected from the public.

The masking, social distancing, and other measures needed to slow the virus have made us look at each other as threats and have pushed us apart. Our "leaders" need to actually lead and start finding ways to bring us back together.

Anonymous said...

I was scheduled for a meeting a couple weeks ago. Pre-CoViD, I'd always taken this kind of meeting in person. I was offered in-person or Zoom, this time. My laziness and the opportunity to crush a couple beers during the meeting made Zoom the easy call. They're lazy and enjoying whatever they poured in their coffee cup. They're never coming back.

Anonymous said...

Add the airport authority meetings to top of list. Denial another means of control. Time to shine again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So there is what you think and what the CDC thinks. No thanks, You and Cusick lose."

There is no CDC guidance demanding that government meet behind closed doors. So long as the employees are working in person, the elected officials should be doing so as well so long as the CDC protocols concerning masks, social distance and size limitations are followed. Elected officials are bad enough at phoning into meetings pre-pandemic. They need to get off their asses and be there in person. The pandemic is being used now as an excuse to shut the public out of their own government, as SWT recently did.

Anonymous said...

One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that most government bodies have enabled virtual meeting attendance. For many people, that has allowed them to participate despite logistical or access problems. Some bodies are better than others at enabling that participation (both attendance and commenting), but they should be encouraged to improve. I hope that after normal business returns that we maintain the ability to participate virtually.

Anonymous said...

why don't you call LVHeffer and ask her to have the meetings in Public again?

Anonymous said...

Until covid came along, I was the fellow who used to stream Allentown City council meetings first to YouTube, then Facebook. I have been observing the granicus stream, and the mask etiquette is applied loosely. Sometimes they don't wear a mask, sometimes they get close without masks, and other times they wear it when it's convenient. In addition, during the meetings, when they ask for live comment, none is ever delivered and there is no easy way to comment during the meeting. Comments meant to be read into the record have to be emailed to the clerk before a certain time. It's time these meetings are attended in person.

Anonymous said...

Another shot and a miss Bernie. The township building is uninhabitable right now due to construction, but will be open in a month or so. Sure, let's use taxpayer dollars to fund meetings at an alternate location for the next month or so for 2-3 meetings.

Anonymous said...

who hurt you, my dude?

Anonymous said...

Try to stop being such an ass with your angry opinions. You hate some people and it shows.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, waiting for you to post my last comment about the township building being uninhabitable. Are you concerned about exposing your own ignorance?

Anonymous said...

Incredible hypocrisy to not post everything and complain about transparency. Sack up Bernie

Anonymous said...

Matty did your Mommy make you play with dolls growing up is that what makes you so angry??

Bernie O'Hare said...

4:53, you don’t submit a comment and expect to see it post immediately. I am rather busy doing research during the day, and sometimes am unable to approve or reject comments for hours at a time. I also sleep at night. You are way too full of yourself

Anonymous said...

we all wish you were up doing any research whatsoever but alas