Change to Meeting rules

Dear Irmo Residents,

This week, Irmo Council passed a change to our rules to allow council members to attend up to 2
meetings virtually over the course of a year, if there is an emergency or they might not otherwise
be able to attend. This measure is NOT about making council from in-person to virtual meetings,
nor is it about council members choosing to be remote on a whim.

A quote you may have heard is, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”. Life
doesn’t always follow a calendar, in the event a parent falls gravely ill or work requires traveling
isn’t reflective of one’s lack of commitment, it reflects the reality of life and a career.

Over the last 12 months, council members have gone to extremes to attend council meetings. One
council member drove 10+ hours from New England after attending to their gravely ill parent, and
then 10+ hours back after the meeting. One council member attended the meeting the day after
the passing of their father. Another spent hundreds on flights to get back in town and then back to
a mandatory work obligation.

These examples reflect the commitment and level of importance I/we see in being “present”. Prior
to this week, each of these council members could have contacted the mayor to let them know
they would need to miss the meeting and receive an excusal, but those members didn’t. They took
an oath and made significant sacrifices to attend. But future council members may not have the
income to fly back in time, or may not want to leave their childhood home and family in mourning.

There is technology available to accommodate for these emergency/extreme situations. This allows
the council members to attend remotely, vote, be seen by the public, and be involved in
discussions. It is more effective representation to allow a council member to attend virtually when
the other option is not at all.

We’ve worked hard to add restrictions to the solution to prevent abuse and reduce concerns:
 The remote council member will be displayed on the stream and on the screens in chambers
 A requirement to have their camera on for the entirety of the meeting
 If a disconnect occurs, then the mayor can rule them out of order and they may not re-join
 This option cannot be used more than twice a year for all meetings and workshops

During the meeting, Mayor Walker suggested this would cost $50,000. Thankfully that isn’t the
case, as preliminary tests today suggest this entire measure may cost nothing at all.

No one doubts that being in-person is better. When genuine emergencies occur, remote
attendance offer a straightforward and transparent method to give a voice to a member who might
not otherwise reasonably attend.

While the meeting dates are known a year in advance, advanced notice won’t prevent an
employer from requiring a work trip that can’t be moved. Further, genuine family emergencies
don’t run on a calendar. From my perspective, serving on council shouldn’t be restricted to retirees,
people with extremely flexible jobs, or those who can afford to fly back from an emergency trip to
see a hospitalized loved one. This measure ends the gate-keeping, where a future council member will not be forced to choose between being with a seriously ill loved one, losing a job, or attending a
council meeting.

As one of your representatives on council, I promised to dedicate my time, energy, and
effort. I promised to consistently listen, advocate, and work for you. My purpose on council is to
serve you, not myself – whether you are voicing your opinion to me from social media, face to face,
over the phone, or US mail.

Thank you Irmo!
Erik Sickinger
Irmo Council