Starting next week, the Portland City Council will transition to hybrid meetings that community members can attend online or in person.
This signifies a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked an abrupt shift to virtual City Council meetings more than two years ago. The City’s three newest elected officials – Commissioners Mingus Mapps, Carmen Rubio and Dan Ryan – have never met in City Council chambers.
Like many workplaces and public bodies, Portland’s elected leaders are now experimenting with blending the benefits of technology and face-to-face interaction. Hybrid meetings also fulfill a new state requirement that all public bodies offer ways to participate both virtually and in person.
“Everyone in our community wants to feel heard and valued by their government,” Rubio said. “Hybrid meetings allow us to set a bigger table so that Portlanders have more avenues to share their perspectives with us.”
Things will look a little different at City Hall when the Council hosts its first hybrid meeting next Wednesday, May 4.
Capacity will be limited to continue protecting public health, with overflow seating available where attendees can testify and watch a live video feed. The Council will toggle between in-person and virtual presentations and testimony. While City Council members will attend meetings primarily in person, they may participate virtually at times.
Community members are encouraged to continue watching City Council meetings and testifying virtually, especially while the City adjusts to new technology and procedures. Online meetings have eliminated the need to spend time and money to commute to meetings in person, improving access to government decision-making for many Portlanders.
“During the pandemic, we’ve seen how technology can bring more voices into civic conversations – especially the voices of people of color, people with disabilities and all people who face barriers to participation,” City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said. “We should do everything possible to maintain, and build on, those improvements.”