Whether you’ve been meaning to attend your town or township’s monthly meetings but never get around to it, or have intentionally avoided them like the plague (or pandemic), now is the …
Whether you’ve been meaning to attend your town or township’s monthly meetings but never get around to it, or have intentionally avoided them like the plague (or pandemic), now is the best time ever to start attending.
As a newspaper reporter, I’ve attended lots of them over the years. Sometimes they’re great examples of civic theater; other times they’re a free, non-toxic cure for insomnia. Usually, they’re some combination of both in one meeting. But, if you start now, your experiences will likely be much better than mine, because social distancing often requires digital meetings, and digital meetings allow for comfortable, flexible and anonymous attendance.
Best of all, you can attend digital meetings from the comfort of your own home. If you choose the teleconference option offered by Zoom, no one will even know you are there. You can come in late and leave whenever you get tired, bored, or disgusted. Clothing is optional. The only equipment needed is a working telephone. You may or may not be asked to state your name when connecting with the meeting; if you are asked, you can always use an alias. (One of my favorites is Kitty Litter.)
When using the teleconference option, it’s important to mute your phone; this will allow uncensored reaction to the proceedings. Once you’re muted, you can use profanity, bang your head on the wall, laugh, scream, cry, or snore to your heart’s content without disturbing other meeting participants who are presumably doing likewise in the privacy of their homes. If you think you will do none of the above, you are clearly a meeting newbie. Take it from me: in due time, you will do all of the above.
On one recent teleconference, officials got sidetracked toward the end of a rather long meeting, which had devolved into a series of non-sequiturs. Just as I was about to make my exit, the chairman called for a motion to adjourn, then observed drily that most callers had already signed off. Local legislators, take note: there is much more pressure to be compelling and on point when your gallery can leave with the push of a button.
All joking aside, I’m now a local government meeting addict. These meetings have enriched my life in ways I could never have imagined. They’ve introduced me to fascinating people, heroic people, stolid and stoic everyman people. They’ve taught me about law, politics, science, medicine, technology, religion, philosophy and the incredible power of community.
Most of all, these meetings make it possible for every individual to have an impact on history. I was reminded only last week by the founder of a local nonprofit organization that it is at the grassroots level where change is most easily effected. And I’ve seen it happen, seen my community change immeasurably for the better through the actions of unsung local people who think of themselves as common folk.
And right now, during this terrible pandemic shutdown, you can see it, too, from the vantage point of a fly on the wall.