Burlington City Council resumes in-person meetings, adds hybrid option

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:39 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council is joining the ranks of municipalities across Vermont that are meeting face-to-face once again.

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, councilors on Monday will be able to make citywide decisions and have discussions in City Hall.

Our cameras were inside Monday night as the council met in person for the first time since the shutdown last March.

However, this is a time of transition for many municipalities across the state that are figuring out how to increase accessibility with the in-person component.

“After the year that we’ve had, just being able to shake hands and hug and just have that mutual respect in person, I think, is going to be big,” said Jane Stromberg, P-Burlington City Council.

Stromberg took office shortly after the pandemic started, making this her first in-person council meeting as a councilor.

This week, the Burlington City Council will have a fully in-person meeting. However, in the month before the next meeting, Burlington will be installing a tech system that will allow them to do a hybrid meeting where citizens will be able to participate from home.

“Having that ability for people to not necessarily have to leave home and maybe be able to cook dinner at the same time while staying in the loop with local politics, I think, is a big deal and an easy lift for us. We should be able to do that with the technology we have these days,” Stromberg said.

The hundreds of other municipalities across the state are also dealing with this transition. Currently, state law mandates the need for an in-person component where people can voice their opinions. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns hopes the law can be changed in the future to allow for fully remote meetings when possible.

“I hope that we don’t all fall back into the ways we used to do this and I do hope this remote option which makes participation easier, it may not increase participation drastically at a local level but it just makes it easier and wouldn’t it be better to have less obstacles to accessing any level of local government,” said Ted Brady, the executive director of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

There are also limiting factors for these hybrid options such as infrastructure, whether it be technological or space and broadband access among citizens. Municipalities are also eligible to use ARPA funds for something like this.

The Vermont League of Cities and Towns also says as towns go back to some form of in-person meetings, there’s a benefit to citizens once again being together seeing their neighbors talking through issues in person.

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