Hybrid Council Meetings, Lingering Covid, And A New Normal Poem By Gwen Jones

by Travis Mateer

There is tons of stenographic fun in this Martin Kidston piece, including an unintentional poem by Gwen Jones, so let us dig in, beginning with the lingering effects of Covid:

With the Covid virus likely to linger in its various forms, the City of Missoula is taking steps to return to in-person meetings while retaining a virtual presence.

Yes, the VARIOUS FORMS of Covid are getting hilarious, like Deltacron and Flurona. Locally, will we see new strains of Covid, like the Larchmonticron variant and SARS-TIF-22? That’s a joke, by the way. I wonder if there might not be some kind of political advantage to embracing this Covid uncertainty?

The hybrid model was used successfully by Missoula County earlier last year, at least until a new strain of Covid forced them back to virtual meetings only. The city has been considering its own hybrid approach and could launch it this year if conditions allow.

Yes, the County dipped its toes into allowing the public access again, but a NEW STRAIN “forced” them back to virtual meetings. How convenient.

“We’ve developed some metrics with the Health Department as well as Missoula County to give us a go, no-go as far as getting together in person,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen. “We have public health to consider. Over the last two years, we’ve learned there is tremendous unpredictability associated with this virus and this pandemic.”

My bold emphasis is the brash claim that PUBLIC HEALTH is our Mayor’s main consideration. Yeah, right. I’m sure the ease of turning off the public’s zoom mic when they displease Lord Engen is not a part of his consideration at all.

The City Council last held an in-person meeting in April 2020 and has worked remotely ever since. Attendance among council members has remained strong, however, and participation hasn’t waned under a virtual format.

My bold emphasis in this quote has me wondering if Martin Kidston is under the influence of alcohol like he was when he approached Matt Wardell, a local citizen who had been showing up in the groundswell of opposition to Tax Increment Financing policy, something covered in a little documentary you might have heard about.

I would like to see the evidence Martin Kidston is basing his assertion on that PARTICIPATION HASN’T WANED under a virtual format.

But Engen agreed that working in a virtual environment with 12 council members can be challenging at times. And with four new council members now part of the process, camaraderie can be lacking.

“This Zoom environment is challenging, but it’s practical and for the time being, it’s effective,” Engen said. “I think we all recognize that I look forward to a time when we all can be in a room together and learn a little more about one another, and develop a relationship so we’re sharing ideas a little more freely and outside the confines of little boxes on the screen.”

Yes, the Zoom environment has been VERY practical and effective for government sausage makers who became squeamish and borderline hysterical over the public’s ability to scrutinize how the sausage was being made.

To conclude this post I’m using a technique of poetic transformation applied by Hart Seely to Donald Rumsfeld quotes. The irony of ME turning a Gwen Jones quote into a poem is definitely not lost on me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the poetic debut of Missoula City Council President GWEN JONES!

NEW NORMAL

we seem
to be shifting
into a new stage
of the pandemic
where
we're going 
to be having
to figure out life
going forward
as we 
take it
into account

there are lots
of shifting sands
in that scenario, but 
we're navigating forward
as a community
and
as local government, trying 
to figure out
a way forward as

a new normal

Amazing leadership! 2022 is looking FANTASTIC! Keep at, Team Engen!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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