City News

Salem City Council returns in person after 3 years of online meetings

Salem residents will once again be able to speak directly to city councilors as the council resumes in person meetings for the first time since the pandemic.

The Salem City Council meeting on Monday, Jan. 9 will be in a hybrid format, with councilors present in council chambers. Members of the public will still be able to watch the meeting via livestream and comment either remotely or in person.

Efforts to resume in person meetings were delayed by a need for new equipment allowing people to participate in meetings virtually. Prior to the pandemic, council meetings held in the chambers were livestreamed on CC:Media, but there was no way for people not physically present in the room to participate or speak to the council.

The city awarded a bid of $159,998 for the equipment in March, but supply chain issues delayed installation according to city spokeswoman Courtney Knox Busch.

Mayor Chris Hoy will be sworn in at the meeting, in addition to other city officers who were elected in November. They include city councilors Linda Nishioka, Deanna Gwyn, Julie Hoy and Micki Varney and Municipal Court Judge Eleanor Beatty.

In a statement Thursday, Hoy said he was excited to return to in person meetings.

“During the pandemic, we were forced to meet virtually to keep everyone safe, but our city should be as open and accessible as possible,” he said. “As we continue our fight to provide affordable housing to our residents, shelter and services for homeless individuals, and our work to grow the local economy, meeting in-person will help these conversations happen more effectively.”

Whether other city commissions will return to in-person meetings in the new year depends on factors including size, said city spokesman Trevor Smith. Planning commission meetings will be in person only with no hybrid option as of early January, though they will be livestreamed.

Monday’s meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers on the second floor of the Salem Civic Center, 555 Liberty Street S.E.

The council agenda includes discussions about the airport commercial air service readiness project, the Salem Mass Transit District’s Youth Fare Program, FEMA funding from the Emergency Management Performance Grant and board and commission appointments, according to the release. The agenda has not been posted online as of Thursday afternoon.

Salemites who would like to comment in person can sign up on the rosters at the entrance of the Chambers before the meeting starts.

To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday. The meeting will be livestreamed on the City of Salem YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.