After facing a rebellion from members and chairs of advisory commissions, the Arlington County Board has revised rules for holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perhaps the two biggest changes from the original plans:
• Commission chairs (apparently) will no longer have to seek county-staff permission to hold meetings.
• Advisory-group meetings will be allowed in-person or in a hybrid format, in addition to the previously announced “virtual”-only arrangement.
The result aims to be a “flexible plan to allow our advisory groups to resume their meetings while protecting the health of commissions, staff members and the public,” County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said in a June 25 memo to leaders of the more than 50 county-government advisory panels.
The changes announced then came after a large number of commission chairs publicly complained that County Board members and senior staff lacked vigor in working to re-start commission meetings, most of which had been shut down since March.
Some of the grumbling came from commission chairs and members annoyed that they had to gain permission from staff to hold their meetings, and to decide what would be placed on their agendas.
While that requirement has been removed, the revised regulations seem to leave somewhat nebulous who has final authority to green-light a meeting. “The determination for whether an advisory group’s agenda items warrant a meeting will be the prerogative of the group’s chair” acting “in partnership with the staff liaison,” Garvey’s memo said.
Meetings will be required to meet requirements of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which requires advance notification and access to the public, although county officials have dropped the requirement that the meetings be live-streamed on YouTube and the county government’s Website.
In her memo, Garvey said the County Board looked forward to bringing back a robust advisory-panel process.
“We know how eager our advisory groups are to get back to work on behalf of our community, and we are eager to have your advice and counsel again,” she said. “There is so much to be done, and so much our advisory groups can contribute.”