Here are the Rules for Remote Participation & Etiquette, similar to the rules adopted by the Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Boards months ago:
Public Meeting/Virtual Meeting Rules (verbatim from the slide):
All meetings are electronically recorded.
Participants' names will not be displayed during the meeting.
All participants will be required to mute their microphones when not participating in the dialogue.
If a participant wants courtesy of the floor or to make public comment or have a question on a specific topic they must type their name and address in the chat feature. The meeting facilitator will identify and call on the individual requesting to speak.
If someone is participating via phone there will be an opportunity to ask questions/comment once the individual has unmuted their microphone and identified themselves with name and address.
If someone has requested COF prior to the meeting via e-mail, the facilitator will identify and call on the individual who has requested COF.
Public comment will be limited to 5 minutes per speaker.
These rules were adopted on the very familiar 3-2 vote. It was quite obvious to the observer that these rules were not a product of full board participation and review since the last meeting; in fact, one commissioner stated that they had not received these “rules” until the day of the meeting.
When a motion was made to have the attendees’ names displayed as they have been since the virtual meetings began, the board president countered that the rules were designed “to keep the meeting the same, or similar to, the way it would be in person.” She seemed to have dismissed the fact that the attendees’ names have been displayed at the township’s Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board virtual meetings without issue.
However you may feel about the display of attendees’ names during the virtual meeting, what concerns me the most is the board president’s request at the beginning of the meeting for the facilitator to state “like it has been done in the past, read over our public meeting’s Rules & Etiquette.” Having attended many virtual BOC meetings in the past year, I can tell you I don’t recall these rules, if they existed, were ever communicated to the public at any time during a meeting prior to this one. If they were, why would a protracted discussion and vote be necessary in this meeting??
I will have more transparency issues to present this coming week. The next one will be a financial requirement placed upon the youth sports program in South Whitehall. And the familiar theme . . . without public awareness or even discussion among the members of the full board.
And that’s why I say they have “inched” towards transparency. They have a long way to go from here.