Boston Herald

Virtual meetings a turnoff

Flynn pushing for in-person only

- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

City Council President Ed Flynn is trying to get his colleagues on board with a proposal that would eliminate virtual meetings and hearings, saying that having everyone back in person is good for business.

Flynn filed a hearing order for today’s City Council meeting, that aims to foster discussion around reverting back to a pre-pandemic, inperson-only format for public officials taking part in municipal meetings.

Virtual accessibil­ity would continue to be offered for the public and persons with disabiliti­es, the order states.

An in-person format would support the local economy, Flynn’s office said Tuesday, by bringing back city board members and staffers, attorneys, project proponents and residents to meetings, some of whom are bound to visit restaurant­s, coffee shops and other businesses.

“Downtown Boston plays a key role in driving our economy,” Flynn said in a statement. “I am hoping for a productive conversati­on as we work to continue to bring foot traffic, business and vibrancy back onto our streets.”

The changes would impact the Zoning Board of Appeals, Licensing Board, Cannabis Board and Boston Planning and Developmen­t Agency, along with all other city boards and Council committees, the order states.

His office framed the proposal as a way to return to a “sense of normalcy,” citing reports that show foot traffic in the financial district downtown is a third of what it was in pre-pandemic years, and office vacancies are high there, at roughly 20%.

“Once again, local businesses are asking the government to do all that we can to support them, and I think it’s critical that the city continue to examine any and all ways to bring foot traffic back downtown,” Flynn said.

The order is the latest effort from Flynn to get public officials away from their computers and into City Hall for meetings.

In April, Flynn told city councilors to stop holding virtual meetings, in a memo that was sent out after a week’s worth of remote budget hearings were scheduled.

The suggestion did not go over well with some councilors, particular­ly those who have a longer commute into the downtown area.

City Councilors Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Lara said at the time that more councilors participat­e in committee meetings when they’re held virtually.

Councilor-at-Large Erin Murphy said she would prefer that all hearings be held in person, however, stating in April that it provides for a more positive interactio­n.

“We’re seeing each other as humans, not just boxes in a screen,” Murphy said.

 ?? ?? Boston City Council President Ed Flynn is pushing for an end to virtual meetings.
Boston City Council President Ed Flynn is pushing for an end to virtual meetings.

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