City meetings went electronic in 2020.

Seaside city councilor and committee liaison Randy Frank asked fellow councilors for an OK to broadcast the Seaside Airport Advisory Committee’s Nov. 24 meeting.

The answer wasn’t simple.

Virtual meetings must be on the record, open to the public and available on demand, City Manager Mark Winstanley said. Government needs to take place in person in a manner that allows for the general public to be recognized and provide their input, he said.

All too often, Winstanley said, Zoom meetings become free-for-alls. The hope is people will speak appropriately, but that’s not always the case.

“I would be very uncomfortable with having this be the new normal,” Winstanley said. “This is not democracy as far as I’m concerned.”

Some of the city’s more than 70 committee, commission and advisory board members may not be familiar or able to master the new technology, City Councilor Dana Phillips said, leaving them out of the mix.

“Most of them wouldn’t know what they’re seeing,” Phillips said. “I think it’s a little out of our grasp at this point.”

City Councilor Tita Montero said she saw electronic meetings as opening up access to the audience.

Any meeting could become unruly, whether in-person or livestream, she said.

“You can control it even better when it is on Zoom because you can turn them off or you can mute them,” she said.

Montero said she saw a silver lining with virtual meetings readily available to the public. “Transparency and accessibility are two really big values. I think we need to be providing that,” she said.

Any city meeting can be recorded, Assistant City Manager Jon Rahl said. “It’s just a matter of setting standards so it’s consistent across the board,” he said.

The City Council authorized the Seaside Airport Advisory Committee to hold last week’s meeting online, with the condition that the meeting must be posted with a link for the public and recorded for future access. Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting will also be streamed electronically.

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