Friday, January 27, 2023
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No Return from Remote: Philly City Council Still Doesn’t Meet in Person

'It’s convenient for city officials who no longer have to ‘trudge’ down to City Hall...'

(Headline USA) The return to office work has been widespread, even among cautious industries like higher education, yet Philadelphia City Council has insisted on keeping meetings remote. Critics have argued this makes them less responsive to the public, The Center Square reported.

Philadelphia stands out in its dedication to remote meetings. The 10 largest cities in America—except for Philadelphia—have returned to in-person meetings, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. County commissioners in the four suburban counties ringing Philadelphia have returned to in-person meetings. Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Allentown city councils have also returned to in-person meetings.

When pressed about this divide, the city did not mention COVID-19, though health concerns were the primary reason City Council switched to remote meetings.

“The City of Philadelphia in response to criticism about its continued use of Zoom press conferences indicated it’s preferred by some reporters (unsure who) and it’s convenient for city officials who no longer have to ‘trudge’ down to City Hall,” said Joe Holden, a reporter at Philadelphia’s CBS affiliate. “Zero mention of COVID.”

At least one city councilman would like to return to in-person meetings.

“My office has been open and fully staffed. I’m out and about every day. I attend rallies, public events and large meetings,” said David Oh, an at-large member. “I think it’s important that Council hold in-person sessions that are open and accessible to the public.”

First District City Councilman Mark Squilla also told the Inquirer that he would like to return to in-person meetings, but the decision is up to Council President Darrell Clarke of the city’s 5th District.

While remote meetings for different government bodies can make it easier for more citizens to participate, relying solely on remote meetings also has the effect of making it harder for the public to follow up with their representatives.

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