April 11, 2020
Some of the threats posed by coronavirus are obvious: Public health and our economy.
It also poses a less obvious threat to open government and the public’s ability to influence the decisions of those who govern.
Through no fault of their own, local governments have been forced to change the way they do business. Elected officials no longer sit side-by-side in meeting rooms along with constituents who want to watch or comment on the proceedings.
They’re holding virtual meetings, with council members and commissioners using Zoom, Skype and other video platforms to conduct business.
The public also has to participate in virtual spaces. They can watch meetings on TV or online. They can attend meetings by showing up at city hall and making their comments or pitches to distant elected officials on camera. Some places are allowing people to join the meetings via video conferencing or submit their comments in writing online.
Gov. Ron DeSantis did his part to keep the government operating by signing an executive order last month suspending the requirement that requires a quorum to be in person at a public place.