The following letter was sent to the mayor and city council:
Dear Mayor Nelson and Edmonds City Council,
As you know, COVID-19 has forced us to change the way we engage with one another personally, professionally, and civically. While some of these pivots have not been ideal, others have opened opportunities that had not been offered before.
In the case of city council meetings, before COVID-19, members of the public who wanted to comment during audience comments or at public hearings would either have to physically come to the council meetings or submit an email for public record (if they knew that could do that and hope that it was mailed in time to be a part of your agenda packets). With meetings now being virtual, having members of the public be able to participate from home via Zoom or phone has created a new engagement level. Admittedly, there was not much choice in the matter and the process came together clumsily for every community who had not done this before.
The other added benefit has been the increase of accessibility. As someone who works on behalf of persons with disabilities, I applaud the city for including live closed captioning of the council meetings. Thankfully, the process is becoming better, and more community members are engaging civically more than before.
At some point, council meetings will be held in person again. I hope there will be conversation on how the city can create a hybrid that would include keeping the virtual aspect, specifically regarding public comments. I know there are many who cannot wait to physically attend meetings again, but I believe it would be a mistake to revert 100% back to the way things were for public engagement.
I look forward to seeing this item as an agenda discussion in the future.