Iowa City City Council to reinstate hybrid meetings

The Iowa City City Council plans to reinstate hybrid meetings after hearing on the importance of hybrid meetings from public input in previous meetings.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa City City Council Members meet at the Senior Center on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council plans to move to a hybrid model for its meeting, aiming to have a hybrid option at its upcoming Jan. 18 meeting. 

The decision was made following a memo sent by the Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin the meeting’s information packet. 

The memo acknowledged community members commenting at previous meetings regarding concerns about accessibility at city council meetings. 

“It is the opinion of the City Attorney’s office that allowing virtual public comments is not legally required,” Fruin and Iowa City City Attorney Eric Goers wrote in the memo. 

City Councilor Janice Weiner voiced her support for hybrid meetings but also brought up possible problems that might come with hybrid meetings. 

“When I look at the decision tree, the question is hybrid, then where do we do it? Do we do it here? Do we go back to chambers? … How do we make sure that there aren’t too many people in the chambers?” Weiner said. “Although I suspect that if we’re hybrid, more people will stay home and comment from their home.” 

City Councilor Laura Bergus agreed that having every commission — such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — go hybrid is excessive, as most have video recordings. 

“If other commissions think that they need that, then they can request that or try and make arrangements with staff for that, but not that we would mandate it,” Bergus said. 

Councilor John Thomas voiced that during his time serving on the council he has never seen such disorder during public comment as he has recently seen. 

“I think the technological option for a hybrid meeting made that maybe even easier than it does here,” Bergus said. 

The city council conducted meetings virtually from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 until summer 2021. City Councilor John Thomas said it was interesting that throughout the pandemic, the city council was able to find new ways to connect with the public. 

“As challenging and impactful [as] COVID has been, it’s also revealed the fact that there are opportunities for the council to hear from the community through that virtual connection,” Thomas said. “That does have significant advantages over attending the meetings in person in that it may be difficult for certain members of our community to to actually access our in person meetings, for a whole variety of reasons.”

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