Dear Citizens of IRMO:
At the July 18, 2023 Town Council meeting the majority of IRMO council members voted (4-1) to allow members to attend and vote on council issues virtually. While virtual technology offers convenience and accessibility, its use in town council meetings raises concerns about transparency, security, and effective representation. Physical attendance fosters better engagement and accountability among council members and constituents, allowing for in-person interactions and a deeper understanding of local issues. Virtual attendance may lead to technical glitches and disenfranchise certain community members who lack access to digital tools. Additionally, virtual voting could raise doubts about the legitimacy of outcomes, as it may be challenging to ensure the integrity and privacy of the voting process. To maintain a robust democratic process, it is essential to prioritize physical presence in town council meetings while exploring other means of increasing accessibility and participation for all citizens.
The use of virtual technology by council members to avoid physical attendance at meetings poses significant drawbacks. Firstly, it hinders effective communication and collaboration among members, as in-person interactions foster better understanding and exchange of ideas. Virtual participation may lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations due to the lack of non-verbal cues and face-to-face interactions. Additionally, virtual attendance can contribute to decreased accountability and transparency, making it easier for council members to disengage from important discussions and decisions. Constituents may feel disconnected from their representatives, reducing trust in the democratic process and raising questions about representation. Moreover, virtual meetings may be more prone to technical issues, disrupting proceedings and impeding decision-making. During our July 18th council meeting the visual live streaming and audio went down. Today the virtual technology is not 100% fail safe.
To uphold the integrity and effectiveness of local governance, it is crucial for council members to prioritize physical presence at meetings and find alternative ways to address scheduling conflicts or promote accessibility without sacrificing the benefits of in-person interaction.
As Mayor of IRMO I made a commitment 19 years ago to serve and represent the citizens of IRMO at all of the 12 council meeting per year in person. This commitment has not changed and I will continue to interact with the citizens of IRMO face to face.
In Service to you I remain,
Mayor Barry Walker