We’ve reached peak Zoom meeting.
As the Fresno City Council attempted its umpteenth socially distanced Fresno City Council meeting in the hopes of conducting a review of department budgets for a particularly brutal upcoming fiscal year, Fresno City Council members were overrun by members of the public spouting profanities and engaging in questionable conduct via webcam.
Suffice it to say: Zoombombing came for the Fresno City Council.
The shenanagans were so overwhelming that Fresno City Council member Nelson Esparza sought a modern day solution – drop the current video feed and start a new one.
The problem? 21st century solutions ran headlong into 20th century public transparency laws, namely the Brown Act, which requires sufficient notice before holding a public meeting.
After some digital corralling by Fresno’s City Clerk, the meeting resumed with a typical halcyon atmosphere.
Zoom meetings have introduced some new tactics during the coronavirus outbreak.
Perhaps the most visible, and chattered, was the orchestrated “blackout” by all City Council members’ cameras and mics while their colleague, Garry Bredefeld, railed about the overreach of local coroanvirus rules.
The message: we won’t see it, we won’t hear it.
Yet, the schoolyard games during a hurried public health response have given way to a fiscal hangover.
As it stands now, the City of Fresno faces budget deficits between $34 and $50 million due to precipitous drop off in sales tax revenue. That could be the tip of the city’s financial heartburn.
With Fresnans of all stripes and ZIP codes returning to work and with modern life adjusting to the so-called “new normal,” Fresno’s legislators need to borrow a phrase from Gov. Gavin Newsom and “meet the moment.”
Enacting stopgap budgets and sweeping cuts doesn’t need to invite further sideshow. It requires an ability to sit – no matter how distanced – in a single room and hash out priorities.
If our industries can feed the world safely through a pandemic, surely we can accomplish the same to keep our community running.