In Person Meetings the New Normal In Arlington County

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, July 16, 2022.

I am speaking on my own behalf and not for the Arlington Neighborhoods Advisory Commission (ArlNAC) of which I am a member. At its July 14 meeting, ArlNAC representatives were presented with a new policy governing “Electronic Meetings And Electronic Participation In Meetings” drafted by the County Attorney, which they were asked to approve.

In the absence of a declared emergency, the policy prohibits commissions from conducting more than 25% percent of their meetings virtually. It prohibits members from participating in more than 25% of the commission’s meetings virtually. Furthermore it requires that physical attendance be used to establish quorum for the conduct of commission business. There are exemptions for medical reasons, but every time a commissioner wishes to absent him/herself from an in person meeting, he/she has to get the chair’s leave to do so, even if his/her disability is permanent.

Commissioners were told that the new policy was necessitated by a newly enacted state law. But neither the law itself nor any exegesis of the law were presented to commissioners for their review. Commissioners were simply ordered to adopt the policy, which thankfully, ArlNAC declined to do absent supporting documentation.

This policy is clearly ageist. Due to the ongoing pandemic, people over 50 have been advised by the CDC to stay away from in person meetings. Yet according to the policy, commissioners will have to attend most meetings in order to meet quorum. Requiring older people to do something that directly jeopardizes their health is per se discrimination. For surely County Board will be incentivized going forward to steer away from appointing older adults to boards and commissions.