The Fort Wayne City Council reopens to the public this evening.
The Council changed their regular protocols on March 16, 2021. This was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, the changes included eliminating spoken public comments, and the meeting schedule was condensed. Comments could be submitted in writing to the Council. Then Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Didier, who was President of the Council, stated:
We don’t take anything that is currently happening lightly, and we’re working hard behind the scenes to maintain continuity of services. Citizens should continue to reach out to the Council office or their council person via email or phone if they need to connect. This is the most responsible way for Council to continue to do the necessary business without further vulnerability.
The next day, however, City and County officials announced that Citizens Square would be closed to the public beginning the next day. The news release announcing the closure stated:
Local governmental bodies plan for worst-case scenarios regularly. The City and County continue to follow guidelines and recommendations from the local department of health and state and federal experts and authorities. The public is encouraged to practice social distancing and proper handwashing techniques as well as limit participation in public settings.
The Council at that point closed the meetings to public attendance. Councilman Paul Ensley, who is the President of the Council, announced at the end of last week’s meeting that public attendance would resume tonight. Previously, he had told us that “openness and transparency, as well as public attendance, have always been of the highest priority.”
The decision to limit attendance at the meetings was out of the hands of hands of the Council. Of course, the biggest factor was the closing of Citizens Square. Other stakeholders had input, including the City’s Risk Management department. At the time, Fort Wayne City Clerk Lana Keesling stated:
We are attempting to continue to uphold transparent, productive government, with the guidance of state officials. This is a difficult time for everyone, but we are all working together to continue to move forward.
Hopefully, this is a sign that things have returned to normal for good.