It may seem oxymoronic that during a time when we are importantly socially isolated, it is more vital than ever to partake in the communal business of attending the regular meetings of our governmental bodies. But this is so.
Meetings of the school board, county commissioners, towns and other public entities are where important decisions that affect our daily lives are made, enacted and set as policy. Because of this, the public has a right to attend and offer their opinions on those decisions — and in the best of worlds, to do so before those decisions are made.
During the COVID-19 heath crisis there are no more important decisions that will be made than those that will affect every facet of our lives, from our personal health to our public ability to leave our homes.
Although we cannot physically attend such meetings during this time due to social distancing mandates, these meetings are still ongoing and the public still has a right to both view and voice.
Recognizing this as a vital component of a democratic society, school boards, county boards and others are using technology to bring those meetings to us, including formats for public comments.
Although the formats and technological details are not uniform within one county or even among similar boards, the information to access and partake in these meetings is clearly found on the homepage of each governmental site.
In Watauga, for example, this means that you can view the agenda of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners on its website and call into a live meeting via the information provided. In Ashe County, the county similarly will meet electronically by accessing the information provided at the government’s website.
Of course, none of this is ideal and is no permanent substitute for live, in-person meetings. But during this health crisis, we are becoming more and more adept at utilizing such formats for meetings, and it is workable, if sometimes cumbersome.
Yet one bright side to our current situation is that many of us now have the time to watch our government in action, and with such action brought to a computer near you, your ability to participate is now more than ever enhanced.