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I am asking the NYS Legislature to authorize Town, Planning, Zoning, School Board members be allowed to vote at Board meetings via skype if they are sick. Concerns about the coronavirus highlight the importance of sick lawmakers staying home.
TOWN BOARD, SCHOOL BOARD, FIRE DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS, PLANNING AND ZONING BOARD MEMBERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE AT LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS BY SKYPE IF THE MEETINGS ARE TELEVISED
I am sending this request to the members of the NYS Legislature.The recent fears that many residents have about the coronavirus highlights the need for lawmakers to set an example when we have colds, the flu or any virus. We should not infect others during meetings. We need to be considerate of those sitting next to us (other officials) and residents who attend meetings to observe their government in action or to speak out on issues of concern to them. They do not want to get sick because an inconsiderate lawmaker showed up at the meeting. We should stay home and not contaminate others. At the same time many lawmakers take our jobs seriously and we want to participate in the legislative processes.I believe that the NYS Legislature should amend the open meetings law to allow members of Town, Village Boards, Planning and Zoning Boards, School Boards, Fire District Boards and County Legislatures to participate in all meetings by skype or videoconferencing. If we cast our vote at home and it takes place at an open public meeting that can be watched by the community (on TV) the vote should count. I also believe that citizens should be able to participate at public hearings via skype.I am enclosing a memo from the NYS Association of Towns that I have received indicating that the current law regarding teleconferencing votes is not entirely clear (CYNTHIA- please send attachment and letter that sarah sent to tim). The law should be rewritten and made very clear. I also urge the state to provide State Senators and Assemblymembers the same opportunity to participate in legislative actions if the state lawmakers are sick.PAUL FEINER
From: Timothy LewisSent: Saturday, February 29, 2020 3:05 PMTo: Paul FeinerSubject: FW: Videoconferencing
Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone
-------- Original message --------From: Sarah Brancatella <email@example.com>Date: 2/28/20 4:00 PM (GMT-05:00)To: Timothy Lewis <TLewis@greenburghny.com>Subject: Videoconferencing
EXTERNAL: Do not click links or open attachments if you do not recognize the sender.Hi Tim, Regarding the ability to vote via FaceTime or some other teleconferencing device the short answer is – it’s not entirely clear, different people have different interpretations of whether it’s allowed and I’ve included some articles, some of which say it is allowed, some of which call the authority of a town board to do that into question. Open Meetings Law allows for videoconferencing, but in Town Law there’s a requirement that Town Board meetings take place in the geographical jurisdiction of the town and that’s where some of the issue comes in. In addition, although the plain language of the statutes say that the area from which a person is skyping in or videoconferencing in from must comply with all other rules for a meeting (aka be open to the public, held in barrier free facilities), I have attached some recent opinions from the committee on open government that seem to indicate that the site from which a person videoconferences in need not comply with those provisions. Sarah B. BrancatellaLegislative Director and CounselAssociation of Towns150 State St.Albany, NY 12207P: (518) 465-7933 CORONA VIRUS UPDATE:8 Westchester County Residents Quarantined PEOPLE IN QUARANTINEWestchester has travelers coming back to the county from areas of the world where COVID-19 cases have occurredThe Westchester County Health Department is currently monitoring 8 individualsThese people are all quarantined – this is a voluntary quarantine in their homes.Isolation is when you are sickQuarantine is when you are exposed to illnessWestchester County Health Department is following CDC and New York State Department of Health protocols.The County Health Department is making sure these people have all support services needed during the time of quarantineAS OF RIGHT NOW – STEPS TAKENWith Coronavirus spreading globally, the CDC has issued travel health notices. To date, Westchester County residents should avoid nonessential travel to both China and now South Korea given the number of cases in these countries.Older residents and those with chronic medical conditions should consider also avoiding travel to Iran, Japan and Italy.Before making travel plans, residents should visit the CDC website as information is continuously being updated.WHAT IS THE COUNTY DOING TO PREPARE AND KEEP RESIDENTS SAFE:County Departments, including the Departments of Health and Emergency Services continue to participate in state and federal briefings to receive situational updates and information on the latest guidance for health care personnel and for monitoring persons potentially exposed.The County is in communication with our local hospitals and other health care providers to monitor their supply of personal protective equipment and the County stands ready to assist facilities that need help with obtaining supplies.The County is reviewing its emergency response plans and is prepared to implement strategies, should the need arise, that would help lessen exposure to residentsThe County Department of Health continues to follow state and federal guidance on monitoring of persons who may have been exposed. At this time, federal and state authorities are not requiring persons returning from South Korea to be placed under quarantine orders or to be restricted from attending school or work.The County continues to send updates to medical providers and first responders as new information is obtained.The Health Department has a coronavirus webpage and the NYS Department of Health continues to staff a coronavirus hotline.Westchester is a wonderful tapestry of people from many different backgrounds, religions and languages. Events like this one can cause stress and anxiety which can lead to biases against those of specific ethnicities or countries of origin. Please remember that we are all co-workers, neighbors, schoolmates, fellow community members, and be kind to one another.WHAT CAN YOU/RESIDENTS DOStay informed, calm and don’t be alarmedWash hands -at least 20 seconds with soap and waterStay home when sickCover your mouth when cough or sneeze - elbow or tissueClean with non-green products (i.e. bleach-based)Get your flu shot