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Midvale Residents Bristle At Virtual Public Comment Process

Photo of the woman speaking during a video conference
City of Midvale
Jana Ward, a planner at Midvale City, reads public comment aloud during a virtual Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

State and local governments have moved public meetings online in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus. They’ve had to figure out how to balance security and public access

In Midvale, that’s meant no live public comment, and that has made some residents unhappy. 

Lauren Graves is concerned about a proposed development of fourplexes in her Midvale neighborhood. The project was up for discussion during the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week. Since Graves couldn’t call in or join the virtual meeting, she sent in an email which was read aloud during the meeting.

“It was glossed over,” she said. “When someone has written something and feels strongly about it and they read it for themselves, how it's meant to be read … it hasn't gone through a chain and been watered down.”

Residents can also submit comments online throughout the course of the meeting. 

City spokesperson Laura Magness said live public comment on Zoom isn’t secure enough. 

“There have been several incidents where cities, counties and other agencieshave been hacked,” Magness said. “We want to make sure that we're providing an opportunity for the public to provide public comment while at the same time we don't want inappropriate messages.”

She added that she has seen more public comment since meetings went virtual because it takes less time to write an email than come to City Hall.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

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