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Elizabeth Pagano is the editor of the Austin Monitor.
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Thursday, January 28, 2021 by Elizabeth Pagano
It has been nearly a year since City Council began meeting virtually. While the city has handled the sudden, drastic shift with relative aplomb, there have been some speed bumps. At Monday’s (virtual) work session, Council Member Alison Alter raised the issue of public testimony and how it has been handled during virtual meetings. Unlike the way Travis County has handled it, public testimony has been divorced from the deliberation and is heard in chunks at the beginning of meetings and in the afternoons. “We’ve been hearing increasingly from constituents and organizations … they’re uncomfortable with the virtual format for our zoning public hearings and they are finding that the process is not allowing them to have their voices heard in a comfortable way, because of the separation between the case and when they’re speaking,” said Alter, who cited the inability to respond to assertions made by the applicant when cases are heard. She asked the city clerk to come back with options that more closely resemble the former in-person system. In response, Mayor Steve Adler suggested a “hybrid” system, noting he had heard that some people prefer to give their testimony earlier in the meeting.
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