Residents Say YES To Hybrid In-Person/Online Public Meetings

Residents Say YES To Hybrid In-Person/Online Public Meetings

Now that emergency measures are no longer mandatory but with COVID variants emerging, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings and other public meetings are exclusively live in-person events. Residents, regardless of their age, disability, or susceptibility to COVID, must attend to make their views known.

There is no need to put the public at risk. Many residents overwhelmingly support “hybrid” public meetings that make it easier for them to attend important public meetings such as BOS meetings by giving them the option to not only attend in person but also to attend virtually via Zoom or some other remote technology.

Hybrid In-person/Zoom Meeting
A hybrid in-person/Zoom Middletown Township public supervisors meeting.

As of 15 September 2021, over 191 people – including 151 Newtown Twp residents – signed a petition by John Mack asking Newtown supervisors to support “any and all efforts to allow remote/online participation of residents in Newtown Township Board of Supervisors’ meetings via Zoom or some other appropriate technology.”

Download the Petition Signatures 

There Are Many Residents Who Cannot Attend In-Person Meetings

There many reasons why some people cannot attend in-person meetings. Newtown Friends Home & Village Board Chairman Terry Christiansen asked the township to implement hybrid Board of Supervisors meetings so that disabled people such as himself as well the elderly can attend & participate remotely.

At the August 25, 2021, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Newtown Friends Home & Village Board Chairman Terry Christiansen asked the township to implement hybrid Board of Supervisors meetings so that disabled people such as himself as well the elderly can attend & participate remotely.

Comments From Residents

  1. Please don’t exclude us!! I have spent almost needs children and it’s hard enough to work let alone go to mtgs.
  2. Anything that makes meetings more accessible is a good thing for all.
  3. If there is not an online option I think it would be a big mistake and leaves out people who shouldn’t be left out due to physical barriers.
  4. Communication availability through all possible formats should be the goal. We live in the 21st Century, not the 18th!
  5. Definitely should be an option going forward. Not everyone can attend in person as many have work to do that work from home or are self-employed. Also cable cutters can not get the televised broadcast of the meeting. The more people informed on what’s going on in the township, the better.
  6. Greater attendance. Also many times people have childcare issues making it unable to attend in person. Hybrid gives option.
  7. Hybrid meetings for all attenders allows participation of those who cannot drive at night or choose to remain remote for health reasons.
  8. More could participate remotely! Now that we understand the Zoom technology, use it. Also the pandemic is not over, many are unvaccinated and refuse to wear a mask. So in the interest of public safety, keep the hybrid meetings. Thanks!
  9. These meetings should be available in-person as well as via Zoom. The technology makes it possible for greater participation by those not able to attend at the Township building. Why go backwards in time?!?
  10. Yes, make it convenient for those that like in-person meetings vs. those that prefer remote. Just ensure that remote participants can fully participate.

Yes, residents can watch BOS meetings that are simulcast on cable TV. But more and more people – especially the elderly – are doing away with expensive cable TV and using streaming media such as Youtube. Newtown does NOT stream its BOS meetings via digital media such as Youtube. Even if it did, it would not be advisable to allow unedited comments from anyone, including trolls and non-residents. Yes, residents can send comments via email or postal mail to the township to be forwarded to all supervisors, but these comments are NOT read aloud at public BOS meetings and are NOT included in the official minutes of meetings. Basically, you are out of luck making your opinion known to other residents unless you attend the meeting in person.

Yes, residents can send comments via email or postal mail to the township to be forwarded to all supervisors, but these comments are NOT read aloud at public BOS meetings and are NOT included in the official minutes of meetings. Basically, you are out of luck making your opinion known to other residents unless you attend the meeting in person.

Other Local Townships are Doing It!

Middletown Township: Nick Valla, Assistant Middletown Township, PA, Manager, presents an overview of how his township learned to run “hybrid” public meetings that allow the public to participate in person or remotely via Zoom. Listen to this podcast: Middletown Township Hosts Successful “Hybrid” Public Meetings

Doylestown Township: Doylestown’s webcasts of BOS meetings show how technology can improve communication between supervisors and residents. The May 4, 2021, meeting was interesting not just because of the passage of a Juneteenth resolution, but because it demonstrates that live meetings can include participation by residents via Zoom as well as in person. Read this blog post: Incorporating Zoom Into Live BOS Meetings

Warrington Township: Fred Gaines, Warrington Township Supervisor, said “Warrington Township has decided to continue Hybrid Meetings as a way of ensuring maximum visibility of Board of Supervisor and Planning Commission meeting.  (We have nothing to hide. ) ARA [COVID relief] funds were used to ‘beef up’ our audio-visual capability.  Meetings are screened on a local TV Channel and residents can actively participate on the “Zoom” platform.  Many of our volunteer committees including Communications, EAC, Park & Rec., Open Space and Veterans Affairs also take advantage of the facilities and hold their hybrid meetings using Zoom.”

Harris Township: Amy Farkas, Harris Township Manager/Secretary/Treasurer, said “Harris Township is doing hybrid meetings. We’ve worked with our local cable access channel (C-Net) to provide a zoom option and to also live stream our meetings on Youtube. C-Net has a device called an Owl that is a 360 degree microphone and camera. It enables the zoom audience to fully see, hear and participate in the meeting.

“As a side note, we’ve had much more interest in the Youtube stream, as both our Board and Planning Commission meetings are being watched in real time. It really does add a layer of transparency, as it gives residents the option to come to the meeting, watch Youtube, zoom, stream it after its over or watch it on our cable channel.

“All of the municipalities in the Centre Region and our Council of Governments are doing hybrid meetings. Our elected officials don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things.”

http://www.change.org/HybridMeetingPetition

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