Fairview Park Considers Bylaw Amendment Allowing for Virtual Town Meetings

FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio — The City Council is currently considering a bylaw amendment that will go to voters via virtual meetings in the May 3 vote.

“During the pandemic, the Sunshine Act had been suspended under emergency health regulations, but that expired on June 30 last year,” said Patrick Cooney, mayor of Fairview Park. “Due to our charter, we are not allowed to hold virtual meetings. It states that the city council should hold its meetings in council chambers.

“The problem is obviously that with the pandemic there are other ways to be safe with Zoom. In order to give the Council – and actually our other bodies and commissions – this flexibility, this amendment to the statutes would allow for virtual meetings.”

The mayor, noting that other municipalities have followed suit and authorized virtual meetings, said an example of how this bylaw amendment would have been used recently is the recent rise of the Omicron variant, which forced the city council to hold a meeting on April 1 Canceled January 3rd due to members being exposed to COVID-19.

The result was that the remaining Council members did not have a quorum, hence the cancellation of the meeting.

“This change would have been helpful in this situation,” said Cooney. “I don’t think the intent is to allow anyone to be out of town or on vacation or otherwise unable to come to attend virtually. It is when there is a serious reason why the Council cannot meet in person.”

Such a situation could also include a natural disaster or fire preventing the city council from meeting in the chambers. Another factor is the fact that Zoom meetings have become commonplace over the past two years.

“Obviously, what we’re dealing with with the pandemic, we want to keep people safe,” Cooney said. “We’d like to be able to operate safely in council chambers, but you just don’t know, so having that option is good.

“People understand that you can do business this way, so I think the council will pass it and I think residents will support you. The world has changed.”

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