Coppell residents will continue to have the option to participate in City Council meetings remotely for the foreseeable future.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year residents have been able to speak at the meeting via the Zoom program or by calling in.
As vaccination rates continue to rise and the number of COVID-19 cases continues to drop more people are starting to show up to meetings in person. Council members said while remote participation may not be needed down the road they agreed it would be best to continue offering it now.
“That just gives them an additional option if they do want to say something but don’t feel comfortable coming into the chambers then at least they have that opportunity to have their voices heard,” Councilman John Jun said.
The council also favored continuing to have residents’ letters on an issue read into the record if they send in their letter instead of coming to the council meeting in person.
This, too, was an option given to residents as the pandemic limited in-person appearances.
“When we started with COVID, what we were trying to do is give everybody the opportunity to be heard at citizens appearance,” Mayor Karen Hunt said, adding that some people didn’t feel comfortable using Zoom.
Hunt said there could be a time issue if those letters are read into the record and if there is a large crowd of people wishing to speak in person as well.
“There may be a time when there’s one letter, and there may be a time when there are 25 letters,” Hunt said. “And there may be 15 people waiting here to speak. We’ve had that before.”
She said one potential issue is when someone comes to the meeting in person and signs up to speak they will be last since the city would have received the letters from the remote residents first.
Council members favored allowing the letters to be read into the record but said those who show up in person should go first.
“I believe if someone shows up here live and in person they need to be heard first and be given priority to their message,” Councilman Wes Mays said. “As a consequence of COVID listening in on Zoom or a telephone call should be given second priority.”
Hunt said she expects Zoom appearances will be a long-term option.
“I think this Zoom thing is going to stay around for a while,” Hunt said. “I think the Legislature is going to help us to continue this into the future.”
She noted one proposal in Austin that would allow a council member to be counted as a voting member even if he or she is joining the meeting via Zoom as long as the mayor is in person and there is an in-person quorum.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Hill suggested clarifying on the city’s website that there is a number to call in to participate remotely.