BY MARIE PULEO | NEWS REPORTER
VIRTUAL CITY COMMISSION MEETINGS: After cancelling public meetings due to the coronavirus crisis, many cities are now planning to hold their upcoming Commission meetings virtually.
Pompano Beach, Lighthouse Point and Deerfield Beach are among the cities in Broward that will be conducting virtual City Commission meetings with elected officials and City staff participating through video conferencing, and opportunities for the public to participate remotely. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea already held its first virtual Town Commission meeting last week.
An executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 20, 2020, authorizes local government bodies to hold public meetings through the use of “communications media technology” for the duration of the state of emergency. The order also suspends any Florida statute that requires a quorum, or majority, to be present in person or a local government body to meet at a specific public place.
On April 7 at 7pm, Deerfield Beach will hold its first virtual City Commission meeting, using the web-based virtual meeting platform Zoom. The City’s website has complete instructions on how to attend the meeting via Zoom online. There is also an option to access the meeting using Zoom by telephone, which is audio only.
Lighthouse Point has virtual City Commission meetings scheduled for April 14 and April 28. Pompano Beach plans to hold one on April 28, according to the city’s spokesperson Sandra King. Both cities will be using Zoom, and will post instructions on their websites soon regarding how the public can participate.
Members of the public will be able to provide their input during the public comment portions of the virtual meetings.
According to the instructions for the Deerfield Beach meeting, if someone is attending via Zoom online, when the meeting gets to the applicable public comment period, the attendee can click a “raise hand” button on their computer screen and their audio will be unmuted when they are recognized. Attendees via Zoom telephone would press *9 to “raise their hand.”
Deerfield Beach will also accept public comments and questions by e-mail, which will be read aloud at the meeting and entered into the record. E-mails can be submitted before and during the meeting prior to the close of any public comment period.
The Lighthouse Point and Pompano Beach virtual City Commission meetings will be conducted in a similar manner, also using Zoom.
According to Lighthouse Point City Clerk Jennifer Oh, a few commissioners might be present in the commission chambers during the meeting, while the others call in remotely. Those present on the dais would practice social distancing requirements.
Lighthouse Point will be accepting public comments via Zoom online and by telephone during the meeting, and by e-mail until 5:30pm the day of the meeting. Public comments by e-mail will be limited to a set number of words. A video recording of the virtual meeting will be posted later on the City’s website.
The Deerfield Beach virtual meeting will also be available to the public via YouTube, similar to watching a livestreamed City Commission meeting.
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea will hold its next virtual Town Commission meeting on April 14.
While Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is also using Zoom for its meetings, only the Commission and City staff can participate remotely via Zoom, and not the public, according to the Town Clerk.
Instead, the virtual meeting will be broadcast live for members of the public to view on the Town’s website (www.lbts-fl.gov), as well as Comcast Channel 78 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99.
The public will be able to submit their comments by e-mail before and during the meeting. While it may not be possible to read all the e-mails aloud at the meeting, they will all be included as part of the record and forwarded to the Commission.
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea may provide an option for public participation via Zoom in the future.
While, for now, the cities plan to hold virtual Commission meetings, they are not yet conducting other city meetings virtually, such as Planning and Zoning Board and Community Redevelopment Agency meetings.
The last time Lighthouse Point and Pompano Beach held their City Commission meetings was on March 10. Deerfield Beach held its last City Commission meeting on March 17.
As of Sunday night, data from the Florida Department of Health showed that there were 89 coronavirus cases in Pompano Beach, four in Lighthouse Point, 33 in Deerfield Beach and one in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
For more information regarding COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) website
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