City Council Holding Special Meeting on Friday Morning

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Photos of Council members at the March 11 meeting by Gary Caldwell

East Lansing’s City Council will hold a special meeting tomorrow (Friday, March 20) at 10 a.m. for purposes of voting whether to extend the State of Emergency currently in effect for East Lansing.

The State of Emergency was declared by Mayor Ruth Beier on March 13 and currently extends through April 5. It was declared in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

The agenda for the March 20 meeting contains a draft resolution that would extend the East Lansing State of Emergency for an additional two weeks, through April 30. A different date could be chosen by the Council when it meets.

Friday’s City Council meeting will be centered at the Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Road) in the Banquet Hall, but Council members are going to appear by video feed, not in person.

Yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an Executive Order temporarily changing the Open Meetings Act “to allow public bodies to conduct their meetings electronically, while also facilitating public participation,” through April 15.

Beier told ELi this morning that Council members will appear electronically for this meeting because some members of Council have been around people with COVID-19 symptoms and all are trying to practice social distancing.

The meeting will apparently not be broadcast live, but ELi will send a (masked) reporter to cover it and an audiotape will be made available by the City sometime after the meeting.

The meeting will have some type of provision for the public to interact with Council members as normally happens during Council meetings during “public comment.”

However, Beier wants to be sure people understand that they can convey comments to Council by simply writing email in, avoiding the possible transmission of the disease that could occur with in-person attendance. You can email Council about anything by writing to council@cityofeastlansing.com.

If you want your communication specifically audibly read into the record rather than only included in the printed packet of communications, indicate that in your message. Ordinarily this provision is not offered but Beier is offering it to allow people to feel fully heard while not having to be physically near others at this time.

Beier told ELi this morning, “The goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to fully participate” while also reducing possible transmission of the coronavirus.

Whitmer’s special order requires that when holding a meeting electronically, public bodies must:

  • Ensure two-way communication for members of the public to hear and address each other.
  • Provide adequate notice to the public of the meeting.
  • Post a public meeting notice on their website.
  • Permit participants to record or broadcast the public meeting.
  • Allow participants to address the public body during a public comment period.

The order also “temporarily excuses school boards from monthly meeting requirements” and allows public bodies “to use technology to enable remote participation in public comment and hearings.”

Citizens are strongly discouraged from being near others if they are showing any signs of the disease (fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath) and to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others.

ELi has a special section dedicated to our reporting on COVID-19 for East Lansing. See it here and sign up for ELi’s mailer to stay informed

Need to talk to ELi’s staff specifically? Contact us.

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