Bend City Council

Bend City Council meeting from Feb. 17, 2021.

It may not be a dream come true for you, but you will be able to participate in more government meetings from your couch.

It’s going to be the law in Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown has already signed House Bill 2560. It ensures that, as of Jan. 1, the public can participate remotely in government meetings by phone or over something like Zoom.

The new law isn’t riddled with exceptions. It does have some. Some land use hearings are not required to comply, nor are contested case hearings. There is also the typical boilerplate language that governments are to make these meetings accessible remotely “to the extent reasonably possible.”

In Central Oregon and across Oregon, governments have already been doing this in the pandemic. And the Bend City Council and the Deschutes County Commission were broadcasting their meetings live before the pandemic. This law will mean a change, though. It’s one thing to conduct a meeting with everyone on Zoom. It’s another thing to have a hybrid with people at the actual meeting in-person and people being able to comment remotely, as well.

The Bend Park & Recreation District board spent part of its last meeting in June trying to figure out how to make it work and not cost a fortune. It discussed buying equipment costing about $4,000. It also is working to partner with Oregon State University-Cascades to supply the “producer” and switch the video feed to the right camera or remote presentation. The district might be able to launch the new system soon.

Nothing compares to meeting people in person. Giving testimony in person is better than doing it remotely. But not everybody can travel to meetings. Passing HB 2560 was the right thing to do to ensure more Oregonians can participate in their government.

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(1) comment


In theory, this is a good idea. Oregon, despite what those living inside the state's beltway think, is actually a pretty big place, and just dropping by the Capitol is not practical for many. If this allows Oregonians to truly participate post-COVID by ever-improving video platforms, that is great.

But as someone who has attended and testified at almost every single legislative session since 1981, what happened in the dark, behind locked doors this year was not good for democracy. We have a citizen legislature. They should be available to citizens who care enough to visit Salem with an issue. During COVID, the Capitol was virtually the only government building totally sealed off. Even the federal courts were open. But not only could citizens not visit the Capitol, most legislators weren't even there. Neither were many of their staffs, so unless you were personally connected, good luck in ever talking to a legislator or even their staffer, They introduced a record number of bills, and understood very few of them. But good luck in trying to communicate that to legislators so full of themselves that our federal congresspeople were far more responsive.

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