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Cleveland City Council Will Keep Streaming After In-Person Meetings Return

a photo of Cleveland City Hall
Tim Harrison
Cleveland City Council meetings, like most government meetings, shifted to virtual last year during the coronavirus pandemic.

As pandemic-related health orders are lifting at the state and local level, Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance Monday that would allow virtual and livestreamed meetings to continue even after a return to in-person proceedings.

The shift to virtual meetings has brought more engagement and interaction with the public, President Kevin Kelley, and he wants to see that continue. Council members would like to meet in person again by July, but Kelley said the council chambers firt need to be equipped to offer livestreams.

“If we have generated some interest and people are following, I’d like to keep that going as much as possible,” Kelley said. “From council’s perspective, I want to at least give the opportunity to explore whether we can somehow broadcast our council meetings.”

Also under the new legislation, board and committee leaders would have the ability to determine whether to meet in-person or virtually though Councilman Michael Polensek pushed back against that portion of the measure, saying committees and boards should follow the decisions of the council.

“They’re all accountable to council at the end of the day, and to the people,” Polensek said. “Why should they be allowed to determine their own course of action without the concurrence of the council?”

Kelley said allowing for both virtual and in-person meetings creates flexibility. City council is not telling anyone how to run their meetings, he said.

“We need to have options in place. This preserves the discretion. This is not my cup of tea, meeting this way,” Kelley said during the virtual council meeting, held on Zoom. “I think you lose a lot not being able to actually physically interact as human beings.”

The ordinance also requires at least 12 hours’ notice prior to any public meetings. Councilwoman Jenny Spencer questioned whether that was enough time to alert residents to council events.

“I was concerned that that’s really not a satisfactory amount of public notification,” Spencer said. “I wasn’t aware that we were able to provide that brief of a notice.”

But Kelley noted the 12-hour rule is a minimum and council typically provides notice of public meetings multiple days in advance.

“We try to give much more than that, but this is kind of like the bare minimum notice that is required,” Kelley said.

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