On Monday of this week on the eve of Election Day the Franklin Common Council held its regular meeting in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The meeting was live streamed by the Franklin Economic Development Commission and was open to the public. Other than the mayor, some council members and city staff the meeting was poorly attended by the general public with less than a handful of citizens present.
Opening the citizen comment period of the meeting, Franklin mayoral candidate Basil Ryan said he was troubled the proceedings were scheduled.
“I didn’t see anything on the agenda that was pressing,” said Ryan as he addressed the council. “What’s alarming is that people are staying home, people are out of work, and people are looking at this meeting tonight and asking why.”
An angry Alderman Dan Mayer also objected.
“Public safety should be our first priority,” said Mayer during discussion on an agenda item relating to city impact fees. “This is ridiculous. This should be postponed. There should not be a question about it.”
Was Ryan right? Was Mayer right?
I agree with an analysis by Jed Pressgove of Governing.com who writes:
“Local governments have a legal obligation to keep conducting business and engaging the public during the global pandemic.”
Social distancing was followed carefully at Franklin’s meeting. If people wanted to attend it was their choice to make. Despite Ryan and Mayer’s objections Franklin had a very good idea to take advantage of modern technology to handle its scheduled responsibilities. The concept will probably be utilized again. Hopefully the city will rectify its sound system issues.
Pressgove of Governing.com adds there are important considerations when holding a virtual meeting. You can read his column, “Pandemic Forces Local Governments’ Hands into Era of Virtual Public Meetings.”