The Santa Fe City Council is scheduled to meet in person Wednesday, albeit without the public in attendance.
The return will mark the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that members of the council have deliberated city business in the same room.
“I feel its a step back to normalcy,” City Councilor Michael Garcia said. “It will allow for interpersonal relationships that usually are developed in person, which goes a long way. Especially in this line of work.”
Members of the public and most city staff will not be in attendance, city spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in an email, except those required to help operate streaming technology.
The council’s committee meetings will remain virtual for the time being.
The plan is for plexiglass to be installed between the councilors’ seating areas before Wednesday’s meeting.
City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler on Tuesday said she was vaccinated and was confident about health and safety protocols, but would have liked to see the public return to the council chambers.
“It’s all nice and good to be back in person, but the real thing for me is the public will still have to call in,” Vigil Coppler said. “The whole thing about going live to me is about the public and being able to have the benefit of addressing us. If they can’t in the room, then it’s really not that much difference of seeing us on Zoom.”
City Councilor Chris Rivera, one of the longest-tenured members of the council, said he would be happy to see his fellow councilors again, but noted he preferred a model that allowed for half of the council to attend the meeting in-person and the other half to attend virtually.
The council on May 25 held a special meeting to discuss possible return options. Choices included a full return to in-person meetings with the public in attendance; remaining in an online setting; and a hybrid model in which the council was in the chambers but the public was not. The council opted for the hybrid plan.
Some members had expressed reservations about allowing the public to enter the council chambers due to a lack of available space for social distancing. Others indicated a desire to explore the possibility of holding meetings at Santa Fe Community Convention Center so the public could attend, but City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic indicated the space would disrupt the ability to stream the meetings.