South Miami City News & Updates
May 13, 2020 | Issue 6
In the age of COVID-19, City launches virtual meetings
We start our weekly report with a link to the Florida Department of Health Data Dashboard , showing positive cases of COVID-19 throughout our area.

Here’s one for the history books! The City of South Miami Commission conducted its first-ever virtual Commission Meeting May 5, and from a technical standpoint, it was a resounding success – which is a good thing considering this is how all public meetings will be conducted in the foreseeable future.

Due to the impact of the coronavirus and the need to maintain social distancing, rather than holding meetings in City Chambers, all public hearings now will be conducted via Zoom video conferencing.

This ensures that commission members, staff, and the public are kept safe from potential exposure in a group setting, while still being able to interact real time, in an online face-to-face manner.

“South Miami will not be stopped,” pronounced Mayor Sally Philips in a recent blog post. ”The business of this City goes on.

“Side-by-side and being part of the meeting in the Commission Chambers may not be permitted now, but, undeterred, the City has embarked on doing business in this fashion through Zoom meetings,” she added.

Scoop on Zoom
Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service that is being used extensively since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to virtually meet with others – either by video or audio only or both. Live chats, as they are also commonly called, are also able to be recorded and viewed later.

For those of you who do not have Zoom capability, it is also possible to hear the meeting via telephone – and to comment. Meetings will also continue to be viewed live via the existing live-streaming video form the City website , or via Channel 667 on Atlantic Broadband, or by AT&T U-verse.

Business as Usual
“If we had to postpone public meeting – until such time we can again meet in person – city business would come to a halt, and that is just unacceptable,” said Mayor Philips.

“This way, we can meet and hold hearings that will move us closer to getting development projects up and running, for example,” which, she says, is vital to continuing the revitalization of South Miami’s downtown area.

A great deal of preparation went into the launch of the May 5 Commission Meeting, and the subsequent May 12 Planning Board Meeting, to ensure the transition to an all-video format went smoothly and successfully.  

Technical Heroes
In the weeks leading up to those first meetings, the City Manager’s office ensured that the Mayor and Commissioners were schooled in all technical aspects of managing a live meeting. This involved close collaboration with the City’s IT staff, the City Clerk, and the City Attorney.

Calling out the “technical heroes” among staff, the mayor stated, “They provided excellent guidance in preparing me and each one of the commissioners well ahead of that first meeting,” which, she says, involved individual training as well as holding two real hands-on practice sessions.

“Overall, the City is very proud of the measures that have been initiated in such a swift and professional manner, the mayor continued. “In fact, it is now a trend for municipalities everywhere to engage with their citizens in this way – a new day for small government.”

Citizen Engagement
The backbone of the government process is and always has been citizen engagement. Therefore, it is paramount that the City provide access to the public process in every way possible while minimizing public exposure to the virus.

“We take very seriously our obligation to follow all CDC-driven rules and are so glad we were able to put these measure in place that allow our citizens to ‘attended’ public meetings,” she noted.

How to Zoom
Instructions on how to access Zoom meetings are to be included in each public meeting notice that the City Clerk posts on the City website .

Another good place to check is the Official City Meeting Calendar . There is a link for details there for scheduled meetings, where you will also find instructions on Zoom access specific to each meeting, how to present documents (if applicable), and/or how to request time to present verbal comments at a meeting.

These are unusual times, to say the least. And so, the regular business of the City the myriad items that are important in keeping South Miami running smoothly will continue in this seemingly unusual way.

Welcome to the new normal!