In light of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak which recently reared its head here in Rhode Island, the Governor issued an executive order today lifting OMA restrictions for public meetings.
The order allows for adequate alternative means of public access such as over the phone, internet, and audio or videoconferencing when it comes to public body meetings.
In light of this executive order, in addition to the prior executive order limiting gatherings of more than 25 people, and to protect the health of our Councilors and staff we decided to seek alternative public access mediums for our Thursday Council meeting. Between Councilors and essential staff, the number of individuals in the chamber totals 24.
This tough decision is premised on an urgency to preserve public health while also maintaining the spirit of an open and transparent governmental process.
After careful consideration of what options the Providence City Council had available to deliver it’s Thursday meeting in the most accessible, equitable, and transparent manner, we made the decision to livestream our meeting over our social media platforms and our YouTube channel.
This past winter we equipped our City Council Chamber with livestreaming capabilities that put us technologically ahead of almost all of our municipal legislative peers and perfectly equipped to adhere to the mandate issued today by the Governor.
Providence City Solicitor, Jeff Dana, stated, “Municipalities were directed today to observe to the spirit of OMA to the best of their abilities in light of the public health crisis. The livestreaming capability inside of the Council Chamber would appear to be exactly the type of measure the Governor envisioned municipalities would administer when she signed the executive order.”
This is an unprecedented moment in the history of our State and City. With that in mind and our commitment to transparency, the Council will work with local media outlets to designate a pool reporter, whom will be stationed in the balcony of the Chambers, to limit the number of individuals at our meeting, and to ensure that the Council is being held to the highest standard.