The Next Normal: Government meetings with virtual options

Many city and counties are now offering virtual public comment options

The Next Normal: Government meetings with virtual options
Smith County Commissioners Courtroom (Source: Blake Holland/KLTV)

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - When the Longview City Council met last week, it was the first time they had been together in months because of COVID-19.

“As you can see, things look a little bit different from when we last met in these chambers,” Mayor Andy Mack said.

For several weeks, the meetings were held virtually. City council members participated using audio-only, while public comments were offered in a similar way.

In Smith County, commissioners are now in the third week of in-person meetings following months of meetings being closed to the public. And while the courtroom is back open, public comments can still be delivered without ever walking into the courtroom. Those wishing to participate in the public comment portion, can fill out a form online. They are then called by a county official during the meeting.

And while many entities are back to in-person meetings, seating it limited. Inside the Smith County Commissioners Courtroom, pieces of tape on the pews are meant to keep people properly distanced.

Most city and counties are also streaming public meetings, especially after Gov. Greg Abbott suspended a part of the state’s Open Meetings Act that guarantees the public physical access to government meetings.

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