Life in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused much of everyday life to migrate online to maintain physical distancing guidelines, and that includes government meetings.
In light of that, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has recommended public bodies cancel or reschedule meetings whenever possible and go with a virtual option only as a matter of last resort during this public health emergency.
If a public body must address time-sensitive business, it may proceed if the notice of meeting contains detailed information about how members of the public can attend and listen to the meeting via telephone, live stream or other similar technologies, according to the AG’s office.
City of Belen
The next city of Belen council meeting will be at 6 p.m., Monday, April 20, and will be broadcast on the city’s Facebook page, City of Belen, said Mayor Jerah Cordova.
Some councilors participated in the meeting via Zoom, while others were in the council chambers at the meeting on Monday, April 6, Cordova said. Prior to that meeting, the city published a link on its Facebook page with instructions on how the public could join the meeting via Zoom.
The meeting was also broadcast via Facebook Live, which the city has done since last year.
Cordova said the council would continue with this meeting format through at least the end of the month, when the governor’s newest executive order is set to end.
The mayor said the city had no restrictions on in-person, public participation in the meetings.
“If a member of the public wants to come, they are welcome to come (to City Hall) and sit and listen at an appropriate social distance,” he said. “We are trying to do the essential items only.”
Village of Bosque Farms
The governing body for the village of Bosque Farms will most likely all be in attendance at the next meeting, 5:45 p.m., Thursday, April 16, said Clerk/Administrator Gayle Jones.
“We have an executive session and I’m not sure if we can do that in an online format,” Jones said. “The council is also going to consider the appointment of a councilor to replace Mayor (Russ) Walkup, as well as selecting a mayor pro tem.”
Jones said the meeting would be limited to the governing body. Members of the public can watch the meeting on the village’s Facebook page, Village of Bosque Farms.
Village of Los Lunas
The Los Lunas Village Council will have its next meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 9, via a program called Webex.
Mayor Charles Griego said the administration was finalizing the logistics for residents with standing in a couple of public hearings on the agenda to be able to participate.
“Planning and zoning did a meeting last week this way and it went well,” Griego said.
Those wanting to watch the meeting can go to loslunasnm.gov/meeting and they will be prompted to download the Webex software.
The mayor said all members of the governing body would be participating using the video conference program, either from separate offices at Village Hall or from home.
“If somebody wants to come in to Village Hall for the meeting they can, but we are discouraging it at this time,” he said.
Town of Peralta
The next town of Peralta council meeting will be broadcast via Facebook Live on its page, The Town of Peralta.
Mayor Bryan Olguin said the council is not allowing people into the meeting and keeping attendance to only five people.
The next meeting is at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 28.
Olguin said if any residents have questions about the meeting or town operations, they can call Town Hall at 869-2050.
“We also have residents helping senior citizens with shopping and other needs,” Olguin said. “If anyone needs help, they can call us and get that information.”
City of Rio Communities
The City of Rio Communities will also stream their next meeting — 6 p.m., April 28 — on it’s Facebook page, City of Rio Communities.
Mayor Pro Tem Peggy Gutjahr said the council is sticking with the guidance from the AG’s office and eliminating unnecessary business from its meeting agendas.
If members of the public have comments they would like to submit to the governing body before the next meeting, they can email councilors directly via the addresses on the city’s website — riocommunities.net — or to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Residents can also call City Hall at 861-6803.
Valencia County Commission
The next Valencia County Commission meeting will be 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 15. The meeting will be on Facebook Live, on the county’s page, Valencia County Admin and Government, but not open to the public.
Public comments can be sent via email to email@example.com by 4 p.m., April 15. The comments must contain the author’s name and physical address.
Belen Consolidated Schools
The next Belen Board of Education meeting will be at 5 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, and can be viewed on the district’s Facebook page, Belen Consolidated Schools.
Los Lunas Schools
The next Los Lunas Board of Education meeting will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 21.
The meeting will be live streamed to the district YouTube page, Los Lunas Schools. Meeting videos are not archived on YouTube or the district’s website.
School of Dreams Academy
The SODA Governing Council will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 14. It will be held using Zoom and a link to the meeting will be posted on the SODA website, sodacharter.net and it’s Facebook page, School of Dreams Academy (S.O.D.A.).
The AG’s guidelines for virtual meetings states at the start of a meeting, the chairperson should announce the names of members participating remotely.
All members of the public body participating remotely must identify themselves whenever they speak and must be clearly audible to the other members of the public body and to the public.
Members of the public should be afforded remote access, via live stream or other similar technology, if possible, or by call-in number for listening by phone.
The chairperson should suspend discussion if the audio or video is interrupted.
All votes of the public body must be by roll call vote.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.