© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Springfield City Council resumes in-person meetings

Springfield City Councilors held a business meeting in-person for the first time since March 2020 when they gathered around a conference table in City Hall on July 18, 2022.
Focus Springfield
Springfield City Councilors held a business meeting in-person for the first time since March 2020 when they gathered around a conference table in City Hall on July 18, 2022.

Councilors debate policy for continued remote participation by some members

The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts is debating a policy for continued remote participation in its meetings.

Except for a brief organizational meeting last January, the Springfield City Council had not met in-person for two-and-a-half years.

City Council President Jesse Lederman declared last week it was time for that to change.

“The School Committee has returned to chambers, our employees are back in-person and I think it is important for the business of the City Council at regular and hearings meetings to take place in the Council Chambers in City Hall,” Lederman said.

So, Monday night, six Councilors sat around a table in a conference room in City Hall with three of their colleagues joining remotely for the body’s only scheduled regular meeting in July.

More than an hour of the meeting was spent discussing a policy proposed by Lederman to allow remote participation in future Council meetings.

“The meetings will be called in-person in the Council Chamber and members are encouraged and expected to attend in-person unless they receive leave to participate virtually,” Lederman said.

Under the proposed policy, a meeting could not be held unless a majority of Councilors attend in person – seven would be required for a regular, or hearings, meeting and two for a committee meeting.

City Councilor Zaida Govan, who began her term last January, said she supports the policy.

“I’m excited to be back in the Chambers and to be in-person because as a social worker, body language and nonverbal communication is very important and you miss a lot of that on Zoom,” Govan said.

The convenience of remote participation, especially in committee meetings, allows more work to get done, argued City Councilor Tracye Whitfield.

“I’m not going to support this particular policy,” Whitfield said, urging more flexibility for remote participation for members with family and other obligations.

A provision in the proposed meeting policy that would require a Councilor to be excused by the council president from attending a meeting in-person drew a strong objection from Councilor Maria Perez.

“I’d feel like a child in school having to go to the principal.” Perez said.

The proposed policy was sent back the Council’s General Government Committee, which had previously recommended adopting it.

Technology upgrades are in the works for the City Council Chambers to allow remote participation. Video monitors, new cameras, microphones and other equipment will be installed, a representative from Focus Springfield Community Television told Councilors Monday night.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.