Since April 2020, City Council meetings have been far from normal, and the Wednesday, Nov. 18 meeting was another first.

While eight members of the City Council were present in the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber for the “hybrid” meeting, Mayor Nancy Vaughan was not.

Vaughan said she couldn’t be present because she had started a twice delayed vacation and when the meeting was rescheduled from Tuesday, Nov. 17 to Wednesday, Nov. 18, it was too late to change her plans.

The City Council this month started holding hybrid meetings rather than virtual meetings.  At hybrid meetings, members of the City Council and people participating in the meeting have the option of doing so in person or virtually via Zoom.

In the past, when Vaughan could not be present in the chamber for a hybrid meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson or another councilmember has chaired the meeting and Vaughan participated as a member of the City Council.

At the Nov. 18 meeting, a special camera was set up in the Council Chamber to allow Vaughan to see the eight members of the City Council seated at the dais and Vaughan chaired the meeting virtually.

Overall chairing the meeting virtually went well.  However, there were some issues.  Vaughan could not determine which councilmember was making a motion or who seconded it.  But councilmembers worked this out by simply stating their name when they made a motion or a second.

All the votes at the meeting were roll call votes and all were unanimous, so voting did not present a problem.

At almost every City Council meeting with a consent agenda, a listing of items that are supposed to be noncontroversial and are all approved with one vote, Councilmember Sharon Hightower insists on discussing the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise percentages of several items.

The City Council policy on consent agenda items is that if a councilmember wants to discuss an item, it is removed from the consent agenda and placed on the general business agenda for the next meeting.

Vaughan chose this meeting, where she wasn’t physically present in the room, to attempt to enforce this policy.  Hightower repeatedly interrupted Vaughan, who was at a disadvantage by not being present.

Hightower interrupted Vaughan to say, “I was not allowed to address this concern.”

Vaughan said, “That question could have been asked earlier.  We’ve had that waiver discussion several times.”

Hightower persisted in her questions about granting MWBE waivers and Assistant City Manager Kim Sowell once again gave the explanation of when MWBE waivers are granted.

Vaughan said to Hightower, “And you ask this every time it comes up.”

So after that brief kerfuffle, the consent agenda passed unanimously and the meeting progressed, almost as if Vaughan had actually been in the room.