100 signatures reached
To: The Neptune Township Committee - Neptune, NJ
Make remote access to all public meetings a permanent fixture -
In a recent decision by Neptune Mayor Michael Brantley, meetings are to be held in-person only at the Municipal Complex beginning 12 April 21 with no remote access. Last year, virtual meetings were initiated on 27 April 20 in response to the Covid - 19 pandemic. Hybrid meetings began 26 October 20 and ran through 11 January 21. On 25 January, they reverted to remote meetings only. While this has been a series of evolving steps taken during a crisis situation, one thing is clear - increased engagement between the public and their government bodies has been a positive outcome that should be fostered, not hindered.
We wish to see all of Neptune Township's public meetings resume a hybrid (remote with the option of personal attendance) style and remain that way.
Why is this important?
There are a number of reasons why remote access to meetings should be preserved.
First, it allows more people to attend meetings. This method has been necessary and is overdue - to remove it is discriminatory. There are those who cannot physically attend meetings for myriad reasons. Lack of transportation, caregiving, illness, age, etc. can all keep folks from in-person attendance.
Second, following CDC guidelines in the meeting room means that attendance will be limited and, therefore, that fewer folks will be able to participate. To have meetings with only physical attendance and a limited number of attendees diminishes the public's ability to participate in decisions that involve them. Neptune had a hybrid meeting style in place.
Third, NJ is still a highly at-risk state in terms of Covid infections. As of 9 April 20, cases were up 20% from a month ago. Monmouth County has the fourth-highest number of new cases. The Covid Tracker at the NY Times, updated on 10 April 21, states, "Monmouth County is at an extremely high risk of exposure to Covid-19."
With these facts in mind, the reality is that there are those who will neither be able nor choose to participate because of health concerns.
To deny the public remote access to meetings is exceedingly undemocratic and, at this time, medically unsafe.