Buffalo's Common Council may go virtual to gather public input

Apr 1, 2020

How do you hold a legally mandated public hearing when the public isn't allowed in City Hall or any other public place? It's a question that Buffalo Common Council members are grappling with.

Tuesday's Council meeting was held in cyberspace and actually had few items of real substance on the agenda. That was easy, because regular sessions don't usually have any public participation.

Common Council meetings are usually held in City Hall. Access has been restricted due to COVID-19 concerns.
Credit Ryan Zunner / WBFO News

Where it gets complicated is committee sessions, like those which would have been held on Tuesday, but couldn't because of COVID-19. Committee sessions and public hearings are often raucous events when members of the public or those seeking something from city government appear and pitch their case, occasionally in standing-room-only meetings.

In the brief virtual session, President Darius Pridgen, who is quarantined with COVID-19, said solutions may be in the works.

"What I'm going to work on, so that the public knows, is a way to have public hearings and so that we won't delay any progress if we need to have a public hearing on certain things," he said. "We work with corporation counsel and that may be in place by Tuesday."

That would be the next time committee hearings are usually held, although they have all be postponed until there is a solution.

"We'll work all of the rest of this week to figure out what, legally, can be done to continue our committee meetings and to include the public," Pridgen said.