Aug 1, 2023 - News

Columbus City Council OKs virtual meetings

Illustration of a loading screen with the bar shaped like a gavel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Columbus City Council met virtually during the throes of the pandemic and now has the power to do so again when necessary.

Driving the news: Voters supported a charter amendment last November allowing for future virtual meetings. Council approved an ordinance last night confirming the change.

State of play: Ohio's open meetings law requires public bodies to meet in person, though the Statehouse granted temporary pandemic exceptions.

  • Columbus is now saying the "home rule" principle allows a city charter to determine local meeting rules.

Zoom in: Council can now meet in-person, virtually or in a hybrid format at the discretion of its president so long as the public is given proper notice and is able to watch.

  • While the ordinance makes reference to the pandemic, it does not require a public emergency to be declared in order to meet virtually.

What they're saying: Council President Shannon Hardin says the intent is to continue holding in-person meetings, while also anticipating future emergencies and allowing members to participate while home sick.

  • "I fully expect that members will be here in person every week."

Of note: Last year's Charter Review Commission recommended this change, though it suggested only an "extraordinary nature of circumstances that could necessitate virtual meetings."

  • The commission noted some residents without internet access "could be limited by a virtual format."

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