^
Keep Westword Free
4

Denver City Council Adding Option of Virtual Meeting for Members

Denver City Council is going virtual.
Denver City Council is going virtual.
Denver City Council

Denver City Council is officially entering the year 2020.

Today, March 23, council will vote on emergency rules that would allow for members who have possibly been exposed to the coronavirus to phone in to council meetings rather than be present in council chambers.

The policy switch, which should pass unanimously and then take effect when signed by Mayor Michael Hancock, is designed so that council can continue providing "essential government services" and also ensure that meetings remain transparent to members of the public.

Members of the public will still have TV and online access to meetings, according to the proposed rule, and will also be allowed to attend physical meetings.

The rule switch comes as Governor Jared Polis is instructing people to work from home if possible, and also practice social distancing. On March 22, Polis issued an order asking that all companies that aren't considered essential reduce their in-person workforce by at least 50 percent while having the rest work from home. These instructions come after local and statewide stipulations that restaurants and bars shut down in-person service. Gyms and casinos, along with other types of venues, are also closed down statewide.

The virtual-meeting rules, which will apply to weekly council meetings, council committee meetings, and city boards and commissions meetings, will not affect the physical presence requirement for quasi-judicial hearings, including when a re-zoning proposal comes before Denver City Council. In the coming weeks, city staff will explore whether the city has the ability to add a virtual component to quasi-judicial hearings.

Since Hancock has declared a state of emergency through May 11, the new rules will remain in place at least until that date.

Members of Denver City Council — in particular, council president Jolon Clark — have been working over the past week to figure out how to continue meeting in the event that members of council are forced to self-quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure; the current charter calls for in-person meetings.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

On March 16, the last full council meeting, only nine out of thirteen members were present. If three more had been absent, then the council would have been unable to meet, since the presence of seven members is required to establish a quorum. All council committee meetings had already been canceled for that week.

Clark had been exploring a possible ordinance change to establish virtual meeting capabilities. But since the legislative counsel from the Denver City Attorney's Office appears to have rejected that idea as not allowed under the city charter, he opted for the emergency rulemaking option.

Other city councils are also moving into the virtual realm.

Aurora City Council, for example, will have a wholly virtual meeting tonight, with members of the public allowed to submit comments for the public-comment period or specific agenda items by calling or emailing the city.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.

 

Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.