Water board votes against remote participation at in-person meetings

On Tuesday, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Department’s board decided to return to a pre-pandemic face-to-face format for a board-committee meeting.

The agency will end livestreaming the board of directors on Zoom from its first meeting in October.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s order to suspend the Council Act allowed the public board to meet remotely, but expires at the end of September.

Starting in October, the general public who want to share comments verbally with the board will have to attend the meeting directly to provide the comments, but the option to send comments to the board before the meeting remains available. ..

A long debate among the 12 directors is between the majority of directors who oppose immediate changes and the minority who support a “hybrid” solution where the general public can comment through the zoom as in a pandemic. Revealed clear signs of division.

Proponents of the pre-pandemic norm cited cost concerns in their discussions against changing the format of existing face-to-face meetings of the board.

“Given the actual cost per speaker, it’s probably well over $ 100 per civil servant who might want to attend,” Ed Colley said of the hybrid. “The money is donated by all other payers who do not want to participate.”

The board has held meetings through Zoom for over a year. The pandemic allowed the public to watch the meeting live and comment remotely on the agenda item.

Dan Mortensen, vice president of the board, said that considering the cost of the “hybrid” option as $ 0.18 per payer is “the most generous way to see this.”

“A more rational way to see it is the fact that we have eight supporters of this from the public,” he said. “We’re considering spending $ 83,596 on eight people who have expressed their support for (remote citizen participation), which is just over $ 10,000 per person.”

According to agency staff, CEO Peter Orzechovsky added cost concerns about the issue of the board becoming an early adopter of the proposed technology.

“Maybe I could put this on the table for another year to see what other institutions are doing,” he said.

In the presentation, Cris Pérez, director of technology services at the agency, estimates that the cost of the “hybrid” option will be just under $ 84,000 per year for SCV Water. This includes installation, equipment, data storage, and one-year board staff time costs. Committee meeting.

Lynne Plambeck, Katye Armitage, and Beth Braunstein were the only directors to vote for the “hybrid” option. The board voted 7-5 not to change the format of the face-to-face meeting after the role call for the “hybrid” option failed to reach a majority.

“This isn’t a lot of money in the scheme of things,” Planbeck said, offering to return her director’s scholarship to pay for it. “In democracy, it is important for the people to be involved in their institutions.”

Pranbeck also said he saw an increase in the number of new participants attending virtual meetings of the board during the pandemic.

“We have a lot of new people coming, listening to our board and starting to get interested, and they probably wouldn’t be able to do that without this,” she says. I did.

Armitage agreed that the online conference format during the pandemic led to more public participation.

“There is a general perception that more public participation leads to more trust and better results for organizations that make it possible,” she said.

Armitage said that the cost of a “hybrid” option means that the general public “can really hear their voice with minimal barriers and feel that it is an important stakeholder.” , Said it was worth it.

“There are costs that the agency does not have to bear, but we choose to make it to add value to the organization,” she said, citing concerns about the increase in COVID-19 cases. I mentioned the “hybrid” option.

As a compromise, the Board agreed to broadcast the meeting online and establish an extraordinary committee to consider the next steps of the agency to accept the participation of the general public in remote areas.

Water board votes against remote participation at in-person meetings Source link Water board votes against remote participation at in-person meetings

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