Now that was unusual. But it worked so well that maybe the Albany City Council should meet this way — virtually, remotely, via a teleconferencing video setup — for more or even all of its meetings.
Monday was Day Eight of Oregon’s coronavirus shutdown, in which public meetings are banned. So the council held its meeting with the mayor, council members, staff employees, and the public taking part or watching each from their own offices or homes. Councilman Dick Olsen was not on video but participated via the phone.
The setup ensured that, except for occasional static, everybody including me could hear what everybody said. The police and fire chiefs could keep working in their offices instead of wasting time in the back of the council chamber. And the video allowed the public to realize that Councilor Bill Coburn had used the governor’s stay-home order to grow an impressive beard.
As for official action, the council voted unanimously to authorize a $200,000 loan program to help eligible small businesses in Albany restart after the shutdown. The program allows for five-year loans of up $15,000 each, at 2 percent per annum, with no repayment required for the first six months and interest-only payments for the second six months.
The loans are intended to bridge the gap until the federal government makes available more substantial assistance to small enterprises forced out of business by the corona contagion.
The council discussed this at some length, including whether $200,000 (from the city’s remaining Pepsi settlement) would be enough. For the details and the points made by each member, watch the video that should be available shortly, if it isn’t already, on the city’s website, cityofalbany.net, under “council meeting materials.”
The council also indefinitely extended the mayor’s declaration of emergency, which allows the city manager to redirect city funds to let city agencies respond as necessary to the virus outbreak and its results.
City Manager Peter Troedsson announced that the Albany Transit System would go fare-less in response to a drop in the number of passengers. Perhaps not having to pay the $2 regular fare will lure some people to get on the bus. (In Salem, the bus system announced late Monday it was stopping service altogether.)
Monday’s Albany council session took about an hour. For this remote listener and watcher, that was plenty of time to have a snack after Monday’s obligatory ride on the bike. (hh)