Another City Moves to Livestream Meetings Amid Coronavirus

Brooklyn, Ohio, which is located just outside of Cleveland, is the latest city that is moving to livestream its local government city council meetings, doing so as the coronavirus pandemic continues to roil the nation.

by John Benson, The Plain Dealer / March 19, 2020
A Columbus School District board meeting streamed on Facebook. Courtesy Columbus, Wis., School District

 (TNS) — The coronavirus pandemic is forcing communities to venture into uncharted territory when it comes to city operations.

In Brooklyn, Ohio, this included Mayor Katie Gallagher last week closing the John M. Coyne Recreation Center and Brooklyn Community Center, as well as the Senior Community Center.

“I’m taking things day by day, but also kind of planning ahead for what if,” Gallagher said. “There’s new information from the state of Ohio telling us how we’re going to treat employment and making sure people get paychecks.

“With a complete shutdown, we’re figuring out who needs to be here, how are we going to do essential city functions and have people work from home. Technology-wise, we have to make sure that we have things in place.”

The mayor noted the main concern for the city’s operation relates to council passing legislation. Specifically, Brooklyn has a bond on a deadline that needs to be approved next week.

“We need city council to have the (March 23) meeting, but we don’t necessarily need them to meet in person,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to continue to build that policy up where internally we can do it remotely on a YouTube channel with conferencing, as well as allow public access through live streaming.

“We normally have all of our meetings on the Brooklyn YouTube channel, which is right on the city’s website, but this will be live streaming.”

Brooklyn plans a test run today (March 19) with city council members at home and logging in remotely.

Residents are encouraged to email questions about the March 23 agenda to Brooklyn Clerk of Council Mary-Jo Banish.

As far as city council convening without the public present, Gallagher said Brooklyn’s charter doesn’t speak directly to following state code regarding open meetings.

Also, earlier this week city council passed an ordinance allowing such meetings during the pandemic. It included sunset clause language.

Brooklyn Law Director Kevin M. Butler said the sunset date is April 30 unless extended by council. While it could be lifted earlier if the crisis subsides, that's not expected.

“We live streamed the last meeting on Monday, which was an emergency meeting,” Gallagher said. “We had about 50 people watching, but this time there are members of city council who aren’t comfortable meeting in person -- even if it’s just the seven of them. We’re OK with that.

“It’s a learning experience for all of us. We’re here to do the best we can with the resources we have. Also, I want residents to know we’re going to come out of this. It’s just right now they need to stay safe and keep their family safe.”

©2020 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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