Mayor Nancy Vaughan announced this week that the Greensboro City Council would meet virtually for at least the rest of 2020.
While Gov. Roy Cooper is allowing the state to reopen, albeit slowly, and return to more normal operation, and while schools are allowing more and more students to attend class in person, the City Council has decided that even if new cases of COVID-19 dwindle to a few a day, it is not going to hold another regular meeting this year.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners with its Republican majority has already started meeting in the commissioners meeting room with a limited number of people and media present. Commissioners can still chose to attend remotely, but they have always had that option. The Board of Commissioners like the City Council have a large meeting room where it is possible for a reasonable number of people to keep proper social distance.
Up to 10 speakers are allowed to attend the meetings of the Board of Commissioners.
The City Council has been meeting virtually since April and the meetings are far more controlled than they were when actual people were allowed to come to City Council meetings.
From April through September, the City Council allowed no speakers at the monthly public forum meeting. The City Council dedicates the first meeting of the month primarily to the public forum, but it also passes resolutions, a consent agenda and a short business agenda. With no speakers at the public forum portion of the meeting, this has resulted in some very short City Council meetings.
The public forum meetings have been an ongoing problem for the City Council because the speakers and their supporters in the audience often attempt to disrupt the meeting and almost as often are allowed to disrupt the meeting by Vaughan.
In an attempt to solve this problem in 2019, the City Council held the public forum meetings off site. They held one meeting in each of the five City Council districts, but that didn’t solve the problem of having their meetings disrupted and they returned to city hall.
Now Vaughan has found a better solution. The virtual audience at a virtual meeting cannot disrupt the meeting and for the October meeting, the only virtual meeting that allowed speakers at the public forum, the speakers mics and video were shut off after three minutes, so there was no problem with people refusing to leave the podium.