Sunday, September 19, 2021
Sept. 19, 2021

Linkedin Pinterest

Vancouver council meets in-person for first time since March 2020

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
5 Photos
Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Fox speaks about the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge expansion as Mayor Anne Mc-Enerny-Ogle and Councilmember Bart Hansen listen on Monday night during the first city council meeting to be had in person since the pandemic shutdowns began at Vancouver City Hall.
Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Fox speaks about the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge expansion as Mayor Anne Mc-Enerny-Ogle and Councilmember Bart Hansen listen on Monday night during the first city council meeting to be had in person since the pandemic shutdowns began at Vancouver City Hall. (Roberto Rodriguez for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Christine Lamb-White stepped up to the microphone at the Vancouver City Council dais Monday evening. Her testimony — on Vancouver’s shortage of affordable housing — addressed a topic long familiar to the city council.

But her remarks were still unique, for another reason.

But her remarks were still unique, for another reason.

“You’re the first person who has testified in person in front of this council in a year and half,” Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

The Vancouver City Council convened at City Hall for the first time in more than a year this week, the latest step in the region’s crawl back toward normalcy. The group gathered in their old stomping grounds to discuss management of the Pearson Field Airport, the city’s work on a new climate action plan, the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project and a range of other administrative tasks.

Vancouver councilors haven’t held an in-person meeting since March 16, 2020, when city administrators adopted a hybrid model and strongly urged residents to testify remotely. Council chambers went dark the following week and stayed that way, transitioning to a fully remote process for more than a year.

McEnerny-Ogle opened Monday’s workshop with a greeting acknowledging the occasion.

“Welcome back, councilors, staff, everyone — we’re back at City Hall,” she said.

McEnerny-Ogle sat in council chambers alongside councilors Bart Hansen, Ty Stober, Linda Glover and Sarah Fox. City Manager Eric Holmes, City Attorney Jonathan Young and Council Assistant Amanda Delapena also attended in person. While the attendees didn’t wear face masks, they were separated by plexiglass dividers.

Councilor Laurie Lebowksy patched in remotely, using the same teleconferencing software used by the governing body for more than a year.

The handful of city residents who showed up in person to participate in the citizen forum were strategically spread around the room in chairs situated several feet apart. More still participated electronically, calling in to deliver their testimony.

Glen Yung, a frequent attendee of both in-person and remote public meetings who’s also running for an open city council seat this year, took the opportunity to urge city administrators to continue the hybrid option moving forward into a post-pandemic world.

“It is a pleasure to be here in person once again. It’s been a long time,” Yung said. “It’s great that we have the option now to watch city council online and to participate that way.”

Yung also asked the city councilors to reconsider a barrier that still exists for online participants: In order to testify remotely before the city council, virtual attendees need to register for a time slot no later than noon. That’s more than six hours before the meeting starts.

“That really is a big equity issue because those who are in the know, those who normally participate in city government, are able to maneuver that,” Yung said. “Those we are seeking to try to hear from the most, who are the quiet voices in our community, that is a significant hurdle.”

Columbian staff writer
Loading...