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Virtual Public Comment To Continue, But Council Members Must Be In Person July 1

Council chambers in Cincinnati City Hall
Jason Whitman
Council chambers in Cincinnati City Hall

Cincinnati City Council members will have to join meetings in person again starting July 1. Council has been able to meet virtually thanks to a temporary change in state law in response to the pandemic.

A state law allowing city council members to participate in public meetings remotely is set to expire in less than a month, but some Cincinnati council members are pushing for a permanent change.

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney says she and the two other women on council are asking the state legislature to pass House Bill 43, which would allow for permanent full participation.

"We think it would be just a huge advantage for people who stay away from being in elected office, for example, because they can't always be here in person because maybe they have some health challenges or childcare challenges," Kearney said. "And so this would really be more inclusive, and we're pushing for it."

Changing the rule locally would require an amendment to the city charter, which currently says meetings of council must comply with Ohio's open meetings law.  

City Manager Paula Boggs Muething says there is an option for city boards and commissions to keep meeting remotely.

"Because the charter does not specifically require that those bodies meet in person," Boggs Muething said. "So we will be bringing forward legislation to allow some of those bodies to continue to meet remotely as is convenient for them."

Residents will still be able to participate in public comment remotely after July 1.

Learn more below:

Remote Participation Memo (June 3, 2021) by WVXU News on Scribd

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.