JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — An Executive Order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now allows elected officials to hold their meetings on a virtual platform in order to maintain an "open government" according to the state's Sunshine Law. Jacksonville’s City Ethics Director Carla Miller was the driving force behind making the Executive Order a reality for the state.
Miller says that until it is safe to gather at City Hall again, City Council meetings will be held online. To ensure that all citizens can easily log on to the public meetings via video and/or audio platforms, she created a simple step-by-step process.
Step 1: Find the Meeting Notice on the City’s Homepage
City Council meeting notices can be found on the City’s calendar (Click on “All Events”) on the main homepage at www.coj.net.
Meeting notices will include the topics to be covered, the date and time of meetings, instructions for accessing the virtual meeting room via the app and phone, and instructions for making public comments if applicable. Additionally, any meeting materials that would typically be distributed at the meeting will be posted on the City Council’s website prior to the meeting.
Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with the Zoom Program
Zoom is available for free at https://zoom.us/. The program will allow you to observe City Council meetings as they happen.
If you sign in using your computer, you will see video of the City Council members from their offsite locations.
You can also use your phone to call in and listen to the audio as it happens.
If you are using Zoom for the first time, please give yourself time before the meeting starts to download the app or create an account.
If you miss the meeting, do not worry! Recordings of City Council meetings will be available on the City Council’s website after the meetings occur.
Step 3: Provide Public Comment from Home
The meeting notice will provide information and instructions so that you can provide your comment on public issues.
Please know that informational meetings may not include a public comment time but this will be clear in the meeting notice.
If you do not find information regarding public comment in the meeting notice, you can reach out to the meeting contact whose information is found at the bottom of the notice.
You can also call the city’s helpline, 904-630-CITY. Comments there are shared with the proper officials and tracked along with all of the other calls on the same topic.
Miller asked for everyone to “please have patience.” She said this is still a time of learning as they move to a completely virtual world and understand the new digital applications that are available.
“We are also learning and expect there may be some mistakes as we move forward together in these challenging times. Please help us improve our process by submitting feedback and suggestions to email@example.com,” wrote Miller.