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Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the Illinois Press Association was asked by the leadership in the Illinois Senate to craft some language to allow public bodies to meet via Zoom or other platforms, so the work of local communities could move forward safely and efficiently.
We proposed language that does allow remote meetings, with some additional safeguards to allow the press and the public to monitor the activities of those governing bodies. (see below)
Some of you love remote meetings; some of you hate them. Remote meetings allow reporters to save the time and expense of travel, and perhaps the opportunity to cover more than one event a night. Stories can be put together more efficiently, and can be filed earlier. It has also been my experience that remote meetings do not last as long as in-person meetings.
On the other hand, remote meetings do not allow reporters to approach board members with questions after the meeting. Members of the public body can “escape” the meeting without having to face those pesky questions.
And, according to some, there have been instances when there has been obvious give and take between members of the public body, probably by text, outside the scope of view of the camera. This happens in person as well, but is harder to detect in a remote setting.
There will be an effort in next year's General Assembly to make the “remote meeting” provisions of the Open Meetings Act permanent, so that local bodies can continue meeting remotely if they so choose.
The conversations I have had suggest this will simply be an option – remote meetings will not be mandatory.
My conversations with some local leaders suggest they are more than happy to be back in regular meetings, with board members and members of the community together again.
So, the question is: What should be the position of the IPA? Do we support the change to allowing remote meetings as an option going forward, or do we oppose extending the use of remote meetings outside any public health emergencies? Or, is there some position in between those two?
Send your thoughts to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
That language is found in Section 7(e) of the Open Meetings Act. I include the whole subsection, because you will need it for today's quiz:
(e) Subject to the requirements of Section 2.06 but notwithstanding any other provision of law, an open or closed meeting subject to this Act may be conducted by audio or video conference, without the physical presence of a quorum of the members, so long as the following conditions are met:
(1) the Governor or the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health has issued a disaster declaration related to public health concerns because of a disaster as defined in Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, and all or part of the jurisdiction of the public body is covered by the disaster area;
(2) the head of the public body as defined in subsection (e) of Section 2 of the Freedom of Information Act determines that an in-person meeting or a meeting conducted under this Act is not practical or prudent because of a disaster;
(3) all members of the body participating in the meeting, wherever their physical location, shall be verified and can hear one another and can hear all discussion and testimony;
(4) for open meetings, members of the public present at the regular meeting location of the body can hear all discussion and testimony and all votes of the members of the body, unless attendance at the regular meeting location is not feasible due to the disaster, including the issued disaster declaration, in which case the public body must make alternative arrangements and provide notice pursuant to this Section of such alternative arrangements in a manner to allow any interested member of the public access to contemporaneously hear all discussion, testimony, and roll call votes, such as by offering a telephone number or a web-based link;
(5) at least one member of the body, chief legal counsel, or chief administrative officer is physically present at the regular meeting location, unless unfeasible due to the disaster, including the issued disaster declaration; and
(6) all votes are conducted by roll call, so each member's vote on each issue can be identified and recorded.
(7) Except in the event of a bona fide emergency, 48 hours' notice shall be given of a meeting to be held pursuant to this Section. Notice shall be given to all members of the public body, shall be posted on the website of the public body, and shall also be provided to any news media who has requested notice of meetings pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 2.02 of this Act. If the public body declares a bona fide emergency:
(A) Notice shall be given pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 2.02 of this Act, and the presiding officer shall state the nature of the emergency at the beginning of the meeting.
(B) The public body must comply with the verbatim recording requirements set forth in Section 2.06 of this Act.
(8) Each member of the body participating in a meeting by audio or video conference for a meeting held pursuant to this Section is considered present at the meeting for purposes of determining a quorum and participating in all proceedings.
(9) In addition to the requirements for open meetings under Section 2.06, public bodies holding open meetings under this subsection (e) must also keep a verbatim record of all their meetings in the form of an audio or video recording. Verbatim records made under this paragraph (9) shall be made available to the public under, and are otherwise subject to, the provisions of Section 2.06.
(10) The public body shall bear all costs associated with compliance with this subsection (e).
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sara Davis
Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County
(815) 759-9002 ext. 102
Habitat ReStores in Woodstock & McHenry
kick off Winter 2022 Donation Drive
McHENRY COUNTY — McHenry County residents can support the store that helps build homes by donating to the Habitat McHenry County ReStores Winter Donation Drive, happening now through Dec. 31!
With free and convenient pickup service, McHenry County residents can easily donate new and gently used household items, appliances, building materials, furniture, lighting fixtures, cabinets, and more!
The Habitat ReStores in Woodstock and McHenry carry gently used donations along with an excellent selection of new and like new furniture, tools, home décor, and more! Habitat ReStores are open to the general public for shopping and donation drop-offs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Every purchase at a Habitat ReStore generates funds to help build, rehabilitate or repair Habitat for Humanity homes in McHenry County. Individuals and families applying to the Home Ownership program must complete a brief application, earn between 30% and 80% of the area median income based on their family size, and perform sweat equity to be considered for a home.
“Every item donated to our ReStores helps to improve the lives of families in need of safe, affordable housing,” said Sara Davis, operations director for Habitat McHenry County, “This year alone, proceeds from our Habitat ReStores have helped us build and repair homes for more than 15 families in McHenry County.”
The Habitat ReStores rely heavily on the generosity of community donors, and all donations made through the 2022 Winter Donation Drive are tax deductible. For information about how to schedule a donation drop-off or pickup, email email@example.com or call: 815-331-8153 ext. 302.
Habitat for Humanity ReStores – Woodstock, IL and McHenry, IL
Open to the public, Habitat ReStores are thrift home improvement stores and donation centers that sell building materials, appliances, furniture, and home decor at deep discounts to the communities they serve. In fiscal year 2021 alone, Habitat ReStores nationwide raised more than $76 million to help support Habitat's affordable housing mission while also diverting reusable material from landfills. All proceeds generated between both HFHMC ReStores are used to help build or improve homes in McHenry County. To shop, donate or volunteer, visit us online at www.habitatmchenry.org.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Brandon Bergersen
Valley Orchard celebrates 45 years in the community with 'Fall 45 Fest' on October 8
CHERRY VALLEY – Valley Orchard in Cherry Valley, Illinois, is one of the oldest orchards in the community and has been a destination for cherry picking, apple picking, and apple cider donuts for 45 years in northern Illinois. Every spring, summer, and fall it has been a spot for outdoor entertainment, farm market shopping, and cider slushes. On October 8, the orchard is commemorating all the roles it has played for the community throughout its 45 years in business with a daylong anniversary celebration called “The Fall 45 Fest”.
The event will be celebrating with the community by offering a variety of fun activities from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, October 8. This will include attractions for guests of all ages including pumpkin carving and scarecrow building contests, children’s activities, an antique tractor show, yard games, multiple food trucks, and one free apple cider donut for every visitor. For the full schedule of events visit the Valley Orchard Facebook event.
"I love growing apples, I have for 45 years," said Valley Orchard owner and operator Raoul Bergersen.
Bergersen went on to say how grew up with a love for farming.
"I had a friend that one day said, 'Hey, are you interested in doing an apple orchard?' I said, 'Sure, why not' and had absolutely no idea how to do it," Bergersen said when asked how it all started. "In retrospect, that was really foolish knowing what I know now," Bergersen said with a laugh. "But it was really fun."
Bergersen purchased the land in the Village of Cherry Valley in 1977. In the first year, he planted 1,800 apple trees which now have more than 5,000 trees on the 35-acre property.
With an array of apples, including their own handcrafted Johnalicious, berries, pumpkins, corn, and an abundance of rhubarb; visitors can find everything they need.
"You become friends with your customers," Bergersen said, “and we want to celebrate 45 years with them. I'm going to keep this up for as long as I possibly can, and hopefully my sons will continue something that I started 45 years ago."
Join Valley Orchard for 45 years of fun on October 8 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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