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Madison City Council pursues alternating in-person, virtual meetings

Madison City Council pursues alternating in-person, virtual meetings

Madison Municipal Building (copy)

When meetings return in-person, the City Council will meet in the Madison Municipal Building rather than the City-County Building due to construction. 

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After more than a year of conducting business remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, Madison’s City Council is moving toward convening meetings in person but won’t be giving up the virtual model completely.  

Council President Syed Abbas and Vice President Arvina Martin suggested starting in-person meetings Sept. 21 and then alternating between holding meetings downtown and virtually through Nov. 16. Two back-to-back budget meetings in November would be in person.  

In a letter to alders Tuesday, Abbas and Martin said virtual meetings can be more accessible for the council and public, however, some people do face challenges getting connected online

“We believe that this alternating meeting schedule will both allow us to get to know our colleagues again, and build relationships, while not going 'cold turkey on the virtual meetings we (and our constituents) have grown accustomed to over the last year,” they said in the letter.   

[Going virtual: Operating remotely, local government bodies encounter opportunities, barriers]

At the City Council’s executive committee meeting Tuesday, some alders worried that leaving a virtual option over the teleconferencing platform Zoom to return to in person meetings would hurt accessibility. Ald. Keith Furman, District 19, said removing a virtual option cuts out a “significant amount of participation we have seen and benefitted from.” 

“I think virtual has opened up these meetings to people who previously didn’t have access, and I think that’s fantastic.” 

Ald. Brian Benford, District 6, raised concerns about people with medical issues or childcare needs who may not be able to attend City Council meetings downtown. Also, he said he feels “more present” in a virtual format. 

“This virtual way is to ensure in the future that we can continue to be accessible for those that normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve like we do,” Benford said.  

Though City Council meetings are typically held in Room 201 in the City-County Building, they will be located in Room 215 at the Madison Municipal Building due to ongoing construction. 

Other city boards, committees and commissions will make their own decisions whether to return to in person meetings or remain virtual.

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