As COVID restrictions ease, assembly members are making plans to move municipal meetings back to the Assembly Chambers in city hall while maintaining the broad public access that Zoom meetings provide. During Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, pictured here, assembly members discussed the transition in advance of the May 24 regular assembly meeting, which will be the first meeting to take place in person in more than a year. (Screenshot)

Lights, camera, government: Assembly prepares for hybrid meetings

In-person meetings poised to resume later this month.

A funny thing happened when the City and Borough of Juneau had to move all municipal meetings to Zoom last spring based on pandemic restrictions — people started tuning in to the meetings, and public participation ticked up.

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, assembly members are making plans to move municipal meetings back to the Assembly Chambers in city hall while maintaining the broad public access that Zoom meetings provide. During Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, assembly members discussed the transition in advance of the May 24 regular assembly meeting, which will be the first meeting to take place in person in more than a year.

“This last year, we’ve had more people watching than we’ve had in the past. I don’t think we can put that genie back in the bottle,” said Loren Jones, who is serving his final term on the CBJ Assembly this year.

On Monday, municipal attorney Robert Palmer outlined the rule changes that will make it easier for the assembly and its committees to conduct hybrid meetings.

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Based on the new rules, up to three assembly members can participate via Zoom. Members of the public can observe the meetings and provide comments through Zoom as well.

City clerk Beth McEwen explained the logistics for hybrid meetings.

“We will use Zoom, and one camera view will be all the people on the dias. The Zoom participants in panel mode and presenters will also appear on the Zoom screen,” McEwen said, explaining that a large screen is available in the chambers.

She said that in-person participation would be limited at the first few meetings to comply with social distancing requirements.

“I’m really excited to go back into chambers,” said Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale.

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Assembly members also agreed to consider additional agenda changes, such as adding a land acknowledgment at the beginning of each meeting. Assembly members will vote on the new meeting guidelines at a future meeting.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@juneauempire.com or 907-308-4891.

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