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Claremont City Council needs to meet in-person again

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-courier.com
The public schools are doing it, so are the CUSD board meetings, the Claremont Chamber, even Claremont Rotary and a host of other organizations. What do they all have in common? They all have gone hybrid (Zoom and in person) for their regular meetings.
Now it’s time for the city council to take note and follow.
Yes, I’m aware of some of the special considerations with council meetings. Attendance will have to be limited, including safeguards such as mask wearing and only allowing the vaccinated inside. But none of these issues are so huge they cannot be addressed. Yes, it may be more of a hassle, but meeting in person is so important, the council should be taking the lead, not a backseat.
Given that the city already has a hybrid system in place, they can limit the size of the crowd, and there are no mandates saying they cannot meet in person, maybe now is the time to explain what their plans are. City Manager Adam Pirrie stated that, “Staff has been working to identify technology solutions that will allow us to conduct hybrid meetings whereby the community will have the option to participate either in person or remotely using Zoom.”
City Manager Pirrie went on to say he wants to be sure city staff is comfortable with the changes too. And that is an important issue.
My comments are not meant to say the city council meetings have not been accessible to Claremont residents. All meeting information has been posted on the city website (and COURIER website), emails go out from councilmembers about the meetings, and for the most part, the Zoom meetings have few technology or access problems.
But meeting in person changes the dynamics of how people relate to each other, both as councilmembers and with the public. A few weeks ago, I attended a CUSD board meeting which has been using a hybrid format for some time now. There was no one in the audience, but over 50 people were present online. But seeing the board members interact in person made it far easier to understand everything going on.
My point is that in-person meetings also impact how the players react with each other. And since communication these days is so important, it can be pretty difficult trying to connect or relate to a small mugshot image on a computer screen. Why do you think so many of these community organizations are jumping at the chance to go in person?
The good news is hybrid meetings are even better than in-person-only meetings, especially for seniors, for whom travel may be difficult, or for others who are just not comfortable in any group settings. In fact, hybrid should be here to stay.
There’s really no wrong or right answer when it comes to hybrid meetings. They are the best option because of the diverse age groups within the Claremont city limits. Here’s hoping the city council will have implement a hybrid model for their meetings … sooner than later.

Fundraising efforts are a total success
There’s a saying that you really know who your friends are during hard times. We can safely say the COURIER met some of those friends during our first ever fundraising campaign. Our next step will be reaching out to Claremont community groups to explain what is happening to local news around the country. And even with many sources to tap for grants, the future for local news remains quite dire.
I can quote the number of local newspaper/website companies that have gone out of business in the past few years. Best estimates for the future are not much better, with about 100 local news businesses per year closing over each of the next five years. In 2021 alone, there are now over 1,800 “news deserts,” where a city doesn’t have any local objective news source. What’s replaced them is largely social media. Ouch.
My wife Betsy and I are in the middle of watching a three-day webinar on fundraising for nonprofit news media. It’s conducted by the Lenfest Institute, a nonprofit designed to help local news organizations. Betsy found out there were over 700 people enrolled worldwide for the webinar. That number is large, but is it enough to stem the tide? Hard to say.
One thing is for sure. We have a lot of work to do and remain confident in the choices we have made to adapt to a changing world.
NOTE: Want to hear more about local news for your group? Send me an email at pweinberger@claremont-courier.com and let’s see if we can connect.

 

 

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