City Council leadership to consult with mayor about format of future meetings
Councilmembers favor in-person meetings whenever possible
Last updated 9/29/2021 at 4:18pm
Residents wondering if next week’s Mukilteo City Council meeting is going to be in-person or virtual will have to stay tuned.
During Monday’s special meeting, the status of the upcoming Oct. 4 meeting was raised as part of a review of council rules for remote attendance.
Though no formal vote was taken, the consensus among councilmembers was that they would leave the decision to council leadership – President Sarah Kneller and Vice President Bob Champion – on whether to meet in person in the council chambers or continue with remote meetings.
The Sept. 27 meeting was the second straight meeting held in a virtual format. Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, in consultation with Kneller and Champion, decided to revert back to remote meetings in the days leading up to the Sept. 20 meeting. A notice of the change was sent out to media outlets on Sept. 18, which was viewed as too late by some residents and councilmembers.
Councilmember Elisabeth Crawford said she was in favor of giving the council president and vice president the authority to make that determination. Crawford, a member of the Snohomish Health District and the Washington State Board of Health, added both of those organizations are continuing to meet remotely and they have not yet begun to have discussions on returning to in-person meetings.
“I don’t have any problems with the council president and vice president deciding whether a specific meeting should be in person or remotely attended,” Councilmember Richard Emery added.
Gregerson noted during an emergency declaration the authority to make that decision was given to the mayor and affirmed by the City Council.
Councilmember Riaz Khan suggested councilmembers should be given the option to attend meetings in-person or remotely.
Resident Sharon Damoff told the council she prefers in-person meetings in general. Her comments were echoed by residents Charlie Pancerzewski and Mario Lotmore, who both noted how residents and councilmembers have more opportunities to interact during in-person meetings as contrasted with Zoom.
Pancerzewski said he often talks with fellow audience members or councilmembers before and after meetings and during breaks.
“This gives an opportunity for some back-and-forth discussion, even if only briefly,” he said. “In addition, you get a chance, like other people have said, to observe the facial and other expressions of the people in the room, who are talking or who are listening and what their reactions are to what is being said. Whereas on Zoom, I don’t have that.”
Lotmore also saw value with in-person meetings.
“That’s how people share ideas,” Lotmore said. “Even in the breaks, they talk.”
A contract for a new audio/visual system in the council chambers is scheduled to be voted on by councilmembers soon, and could potentially facilitate future hybrid meetings, which Kneller supports.
“I definitely don’t believe that council is any less effective with any different configuration of in person versus online,” Kneller said. “I know a lot of groups have shifted, and productivity in lots of places has actually increased shifting to more online and remote attendance.”
Councilmembers seemed to agree there should be an option for them to attend meetings remotely in rare instances.
“I strongly support the concept that we should use that infrequently, at least individually,” Emery said, “And really strive to be here – personally present as much as possible.”
The council’s written policy on remote attendance says, “In limited instances, the City would benefit by a councilmember’s participation by means of remote communication. The council recognizes the benefits of fullest practicable attendance and participation by its members. Attendance from remote locations is intended to be an alternative and relatively infrequently used method for participation by councilmembers.”
Editor's note: After the deadline for this story, the City announced that the Oct. 4 meeting will be held in a virtual format only.