[Regarding “Local Governments Nix Remote Public Comment,” July 14, Xpress:] Here at Earthaven Ecovillage, we’ve had a similar experience since the pandemic brought Zoom participation into our Council meetings. For a while, (mostly elder) members were able to participate in a limited way in our biweekly meetings, which entailed a longer setup process for the (volunteer) meeting organizers, the inability of the Zoom participants to see (and sometimes hear well) the people in the Council circle, and a significant shift in the energy of the circle, which is quite personal and sometimes includes physical activities like standing and stretching together during a break in the agenda, as well as the opportunity to connect personally during breaks.
We also have decided to discontinue regular virtual participation in meetings unless someone is ill or traveling and has a decisive role to play in that meeting’s agenda content. Similarly, those who feel “shut out” are unhappy and, because of how decisions are made, probably are going to have to flow with the restored “live” attendance policy unless they want to spend a lot of time arguing their points.
Why has this become important to us out here, and how much of that is similar to what motivates county officials to raise their bar again? We are more than simply thinking beings!
What we do and decide, what we express, listen to and engage with in our meetings involves more than our thinking apparatuses, even if we tend to ignore these other human and psychic gifts. We are hearts and bodies, spirits too, and all those functions, whether we map them much in our minutes or not, play into who we are as a group, what we decide to do together and why.
Making decisions about our future from only a mental (in this case, left-brained) viewpoint is a hazard of limited connection. When people are not in the same physical space, experiencing all the facial expressions, body postures and subtle tones of voice that others in the room are privy to, we don’t have a level playing field. At Earthaven, we don’t want a community that functions at that minimal level, and maybe the county doesn’t want that or the other complications virtual meetings bring, either.
This is a shoutout to those who have the courage to set the bar in the county to real — if not explicit — multilevel communication between citizens that affects the development of their crucial procedures: thank you! It’s also a reminder, to those who were enjoying remote participation, that their access to input has not been excised, only their ability to respond in the moment.
That’s some kind of limitation, but compared to the impact on the intention to run things as humanly (as opposed to technologically) as possible, it just doesn’t measure up out here or, apparently, in there. I’m not sure if members of the local government are aware of the losses and dilutions technological communication, no matter how useful, is costing, but their decision to hold this line is encouraging to those of us who do see the dangers of those impacts.
— Arjuna da Silva