The notice for the Tuesday, March 31 City Council meeting states that it will be closed to the public, but it appears that won’t be the case if Mayor Nancy Vaughan has a say in it.
When told that the meeting was closed to the public and press, Vaughan said, “I’m not in favor of that.”
She said, “I think the room is big enough to accommodate whatever press shows up and still practice social distancing, and if they misbehave we can always have them removed.”
Vaughan said, “Accommodating the press is easy. The hard part is how to accommodate the public.”
She noted that it was going to be a short meeting that consisted almost entirely of the Consent Agenda. Items on the Consent Agenda are considered noncontroversial matters that don’t need to be discussed and the entire Consent Agenda is passed with one voice vote. So even though there are 45 items on the agenda, it is likely that at the City Council meeting there will only be two votes. One to pass the Consent Agenda and one to adjourn.
Vaughan said that all the public hearing items and items that could be controversial were being continued.
According to a press release, those public hearing items have been continued to the meeting on Tuesday, April 21, or the next meeting the City Council holds if that meeting is cancelled.
Vaughan said, “As a council, we don’t want to stifle public comment and we’ll have to find a way to accommodate that.”
Two reporters attend most City Council meetings, one from the News & Record and one from the Rhino Times. When there are controversial items on the agenda, sometimes as many as four reporters attend the meeting.
As Vaughan noted, in the Council Chamber there is plenty of room for even four reporters to keep the recommended social distance at a meeting.
Vaughan said, “The room can accommodate quite a few people, I think we can do that. We don’t want to keep the press out.”