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Letter to the Editor: Remote Meetings and COVID-19

Hi, I’m Joe A. Kunzler a public transit plus open government advocate.  I read of the tragic incident that happened at Lynnwood City Council July 26th with the COVID-19 infection during a hybrid public meeting. hankfully before the news of the COVID-19 infection broke both the City Government of Lynnwood and Community Transit – for starters –heeded rising concerns of Snohomish Public Health and citizens to return to 100% virtual meetings to stop COVID-19. 

It’s worth noting that this would have been impossible if not for the wisdom of Governor Jay Inslee and staff deciding to retain the legal State of Emergency to allow for local governments to make adjustments.

Now imagine if our leaders gave in to the voices demanding an end to the “state of emergency” without truly understanding that the “state of emergency” allows Governor Inslee to remove parts of law that hinder responding to an emergency?  We would have more Covid19 infections.

That said, the COVID-19 pandemic will end.  Then what?  Do we lose the remote access created from Covid19 to update a circa 1971 Open Public Meetings Act? 

Right now in the state legislature, stalled by the State Senate floor calendar are HB 1056 and HB 1329.  HB 1056 addresses allowing local governments and state public agencies to meet remotely in the event of future emergencies.  HB 1329 will enshrine public comment as a requirement and require among other things an online option upon request when an in-person option exists.

Yet sadly State Senator Marko Lillias as State Senate Majority Floor Leader brought neither bill to the Senate floor for a vote.  I have attempted to reach out and filed a public records request; yet there is no answer why Senator Lillias deprioritized these bills that many groups and citizens testified pro for. 

I ask Senator Lillias please publicly prioritize both HB 1056 & HB 1329 passage so there is certainty and inclusion in the Open Public Meetings Act, please.


Joe A. Kunzler
Skagit County, WA

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