‘New normal’ means Zoom city council meetings for Taylorsville elected officials
May 05, 2020 12:03PM
By Carl Fauver
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
The calendar clearly said “April Fool’s Day,” 24 hours traditionally set aside for practical jokes and levity. But as we entered the second month of our wash-your-hands, social distancing, “new normal” world, the day felt anything but fun.
Instead, that night’s Taylorsville City Council meeting looked more like “The Brady Bunch” opening credits, with Greg and his siblings replaced by the mayor and city council members in small, on-screen boxes.
“I thought it went great for our first try,” Mayor Kristie Overson said of the council’s initial Zoom meeting. “It was a light meeting, which made it easier. We knew it was kind of a practice run. I think it was OK.”
Less than two months ago, many of us only connected the word “zoom” with the noise Superman makes flying overhead, or that 1970s kids’ educational program by the same name on PBS. Suddenly, it’s identified as the primary way groups meet and talk during a pandemic, from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Four Wednesdays earlier, March 4, the Taylorsville City Council met as it always had, in their city hall chambers before a fairly sparse crowd. That was before we had ever heard those two now ubiquitous words put together: “social distancing.”
The next Wednesday, March 11, saw the NBA postpone its entire season at the drop of a hat, just before the start of a Utah at Oklahoma City game after Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the league’s first player to officially test positive for coronavirus. Fellow All-Star Donovan Mitchell would do likewise hours later.
Just a day or two ahead of the next scheduled city council meeting, with sports leagues, concerts and other events cancelling left and right, the Taylorsville City Council cancelled its March 18 evening meeting. Instead, northern Utah received a March 18 morning earthquake.
That’s the backdrop that led council members to their first-ever Zoom meeting.
“We had done a couple of practice sessions just to check out the connections, and I thought it went really well,” said Council Chair Meredith Harker, who conducted the Zoom session. “We had council members raise their hands when they wanted to speak. I think it was OK.”
Prior to the Zoom council meeting, city officials used their own website, Facebook and other social media platforms to solicit public comment regarding any of the agenda items. It was reported at the meeting they did not receive any.
“It was a lot different, not having our normal public comment period,” Councilman Curt Cochran said. “But we are in unprecedented times and learning as we go. I do think we got all the business done that we needed to do.”
Several of those involved in the April 1 Zoom meeting did gather together in the city hall council chambers, including Overson, Chair Harker and some presenters. But with the large room virtually empty, officials said it was not difficult for them to maintain 6-foot distancing.
Like most everything else in our upside-down lives these days, it’s not yet known how many more Taylorsville City Council meetings will be held through the Zoom format.
“Council meetings have actually been available to view online for nearly a year since last June,” Taylorsville Communication Director Kim Horiuchi said. “[This] was our most-viewed meeting to date.”
Facebook viewership of the April 1 meeting was 227, while another 150 people watched the proceedings on the Taylorsville City website.