Can Corrales’ fabled civic participation survive amid the pandemic-motivated transition to online sessions of Village government? Can allegiance to the flag and to the Constitution of the United States of America be assured if the pledge that starts all Village Council meetings is chronically garbled and virtually unintelligible?
At the May 12 council meeting, Mayor Jo Anne Roake apologized again for the jumbled Pledge of Allegiance, saying, “We’re going to get the pledge eventually!” For months now, Mayor Jo Anne Roake has gaveled council meetings open from her home while members of the governing body look on from their homes. Is such a meeting really a meeting? Presumably municipal governments around New Mexico and around the nation have conducted the public’s business in similar situations. It’s unlikely that legal challenges will ensue as alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act.
But there’s little doubt that such sessions inhibit public participation in the Village’s decision-making processes. To “attend” the May 12 meeting, a citizen had to place a telephone call to 1-669-900-6833 and key in the meeting ID number 87214076769.
Is your eyesight good? Your fingers nimble? Your anti-transpositional skills sharp? What do you do if you still have a rotary dial phone?
Ten minutes before the May 12 meeting was supposed to start, the mayor’s screen indicated just two persons had logged in to participate. As the seconds ticked down, a quorum emerged, and the mayor led the traditional pledge in what is now the usual cacophony.
As councillors’ pixilated visages appeared, the meeting was about to begin when Councillor Stu Murray pointed out that Meeting ID number posted on the Village’s website to which participants were supposed to dial in, 87214076769, was wrong.
The incorrect number shown was 87514076769.
Within seconds, the Village’s website manager, Aaron Gjullin, corrected the error. At any rate, villager had not flocked to the good, or bad, Meeting ID number as the meeting got under way.
No one had signed up to speak (present) during the Corraleños Forum portion of the traditional council agenda, and no one except Village officials and Corrales MainStreet Director Sandy Rasmussen chimed in on any topic.
The mayor and council breezed through their light agenda until, under the normally uncontroversial “Consent Agenda,” Murray asked the mayor to withdraw one item, appointment of members to the Planning and Zoning Commission, from the intended grouped motion to approve.
He said he wanted an opportunity to ask the mayor’s nominees individually what their positions are on four topics, including residential housing density and relaxation of restrictions on home construction on steep slopes.
The nominees may or may not have been Zoomed in for the virtual council meeting, but the councillor’s request to question them was denied. All appointees were approved with a single voice vote covering 13 appointments to the Library Board and the Bosque Advisory Commission as well as P&Z.
At the virtual meeting Mayor Roake pointed out that members of the public are invited to submit comments before meetings by email to the Village Clerk through the website, http://www.corrales-nm.org or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In response to Councillor Murray’s request that the public be given better instructions on how to participate in Village meetings, Roake said anyone can join in the virtual council meeting, and that any comments submitted before the meeting would be read into the meeting minutes.
“We do want to hear from folks,” she added.
In her “Mayor’s Message for May 15,” Roake reported on a “Virtual Town Hall” meeting May 14 and urged, “It’s crucial that citizens have an opportunity to speak with the government in these challenging times.” She invited villagers to join in the next “Virtual Town Hall” meeting May 28, 5:30 p.m.
Approximately 50 logged in for the first of those meetings.