After nearly two years of virtual meetings, the St. Paul City Council will convene at City Hall Wednesday despite objections from Mayor Melvin Carter.
“Given the current surge of cases and hospitalizations, shortage of ICU beds, stark warnings from health care and public health professionals, and most recent guidance that the omicron variant has rendered many past mitigation measures obsolete, I respectfully disagree with the timing of your decision,” Carter wrote in a letter to council members Tuesday. “Nevertheless, I respect the City Council’s independent jurisdiction over Council operations and staff.”
Council President Amy Brendmoen said in an interview that the council has been hoping to resume in-person meetings for months, both for the sake of transparency and to show solidarity with the police officers, firefighters, parks and libraries staff and other city employees who have been working in the field throughout much of the pandemic.
Brendmoen added that masks are required in city buildings and the roughly 30 staff members serving the council plan to socially distance.
“We aren’t looking to the mayor for advice about when to return to work,” she said. “We’re looking to advice from public health officials. And at this point, we still believe that it’s safe especially given the mask mandate and how we’re going to be conducting our business.”
Members of the public will be able to participate in meetings in person or by phone. In his letter, Carter requested that city workers be given the option to deliver staff reports and answer questions virtually.
If that option is not provided, the mayor said, city employees who are unable to appear remotely will be directed to submit a written report at least one day ahead of meetings and monitor sessions for additional questions.
“Ultimately the council votes,” Brendmoen said. “If we do not believe that we have the information that we need or the information wasn’t presented to us in a clear way, we may have difficulty getting items through the council process.”