Ithaca Joint Council holds first in-person meeting since COVID-19 pandemic
ITHACA, NY ââ On July 7, 2021, the Ithaca City Council held its first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began about 15 months ago.
“I am also grateful that we are back in the Council Chamber,” said Alderman Graham Kerslick. âI know we joked about it on Zoom, but it’s actually really great to be back in person. I certainly appreciate that, and I appreciate that the audience is here.
Ithaca City Council suspended in-person meetings and switched to Zoom at the start of the pandemic, with the March 25, 2020 meeting being the first to be broadcast via YouTube. They resumed face-to-face meetings after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state of emergency for New York City ended on June 24.
Alderman Laura Lewis said the Common Council was agile as it adapted to changing circumstances, both implementing virtual meetings and re-establishing face-to-face meetings.
âThe switch flipped very quickly when we got into the pandemic,â Lewis said, âthen the switch flipped just as quickly two Thursdays ago at midnight, early in the weekend, when we learned that the state of emergency had expired and therefore the orders had also expired, necessitating in-person meetings.
About 20 members of the public attended the meeting, occupying most of the seats in the City Hall conference hall. Few of the participants wore face coverings at the meeting. The Joint Council recorded the meeting and uploaded the recording of the meeting to YouTube the day after the meeting.
While some people who attended the virtual meetings may not have attended the meetings in person, other residents do not have the devices to watch the meetings online.
âAs much as our meetings on Zoom allowed some people, maybe more people, in the audience to attend meetings without having to go to town hall, it also meant that some who did not have the technology, didnât have to go to town hall. did not have access to the library. , for example, to use their technology, could not take advantage of it, âsaid Lewis. âSo I just wanted to welcome everyone. “
Fay Gougakis, a regular at the Common Council before the pandemic, spoke at the meeting, complaining that the council asking residents to go online was unfair to people without access to the technology, as it does not have computer or mobile phone.
âFor me, yes, technology has its place,â Gougakis said, âand you have Zoom meetings or whatever, but today to do that is unfair.â
Several other residents attended the meeting to share their concerns and criticisms with City Council on a range of topics, for which Alderman Cynthia Brock thanked them. Brock also touched on some struggles the community faces, such as mental health, environmental change and the economy, before reassuring speakers that the Common Council takes their concerns seriously.
âIt’s quite interesting,â said Brock. âHere we are, 15 months after our last meeting, and we continue as if life was normal, but everything has changed in these 15 months. “
The town council also discussed damage to Stewart Park during recent thunderstorms to improve pedestrian access to the farmers market during its meeting. Overall, however, the main tone of the in-person meeting was grateful, with Alderman Lewis adding glowing remarks regarding the city government‘s efforts to weather the pandemic.
âI think there’s a lot, a lot of thanks to go over this last year and a half,â Lewis said. âWe have a lot of work ahead of us; I’m aware of that, and yet I think it’s really important to take a break and thank those who have helped us through this last year and a half.