There is a lot of debate among governing bodies about whether conducting public meetings (County Council, City Council, Plan Commission, etc.) via remote video technologies increases access or decreases access. I’ve been told that holding meetings remotely is ageist. And of course there are many in our community who do not have access to broadband Internet or the equipment to participate remotely (a topic for another comment on its own). On the other hand, I’ve heard from many constituents — including those over 70 — that they appreciate being able to participate remotely. That the Zoom meetings are easier to hear, easier to read presentations, and, of course, easier to attend.
Randy Paul made some great public comments last night at the Bloomington City Council meeting, saying that for many people with disabilities moving to Zoom has been wonderful, and he also mentions the challenges that families with children might have in participating in public meetings (note that if last night’s City Council meeting had been held in person only, one would have had to been there until 10:30PM at City Hall).
In particular, Mr. Paul expressed the hope that once we return to face to face meetings that we continue to incorporate the ability to participate using remote technologies, and I completely agree. Integrating face to face meetings with remote participation is even more challenging than remote-only meetings. It may well require additional equipment and staff support. But I think it is worth the effort.
Note that the actual members of the governing body can only vote remotely because of the Governor’s Executive Order. We have no control over the actions of the state, and continuing participation by the members of the body would be dependent on future legislation. But allowing public participation — we can do that ourselves locally without permission from the state.
We have learned a great deal in a short time about how to incorporate public participation using remote technologies. Let’s not forget what we’ve learned once we move on to the “new normal”.
The 2016 Citizens’ Academy for Monroe County residents is coming up, and there are still a few spaces available! The Citizens’ Academy, which begins February 8th and ends April 4th, is designed to give Monroe County residents a better understanding of how county government functions, where tax dollars go, and how to become involved in county boards and committees. The program allows citizens to interact directly with elected officials and department heads and get a behind the scenes tour of several county government facilities.
The Monroe County Citizens’ Academy is supported and funded by Monroe County government and conducted by the Monroe County Extension Office. There is no cost to participate; however registration is requested by February 1st. Classes will be held in the evening from 6-9PM, at various locations.
A brochure with additional information, including a registration form, is available at the Purdue Extension – Monroe County Office, located at 3400 South Walnut Street and on the web here. You can also get additional information about the program through the Purdue Extension – Monroe County Office at 349-2575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a list of the topics for the Citizens’ Academy:
Monroe County Council and Financing Local Government (I will be speaking about Financing Local Government)
Assessor and County Clerk
Highway, Planning and Emergency Management
Probation, Community Corrections, Drug Court
Jail and Law Enforcement (including a tour of the jail, which is always one of the highlights of the program)
Youth Services, Health Dept, Township Trustees and Auditor’s Office
County Commissioners and County Recorder
This is a great program and a great learning opportunity. Sign up now while you still can!
I’m not going to make any comments in particular on this blog entry, because my purpose is simply to make this report available to the public as quickly as possible.
The Monroe County Commissioners contracted with governmental accounting consultants Hartman and Williams for $150K to assist the Monroe County Treasurer’s Office in reconciling the Treasurer’s cash book to the corresponding bank accounts for the years 2012-2014.
Attached are the documents delivered by Hartman and Williams: