By Josh Martinez | Paradise Valley Independent
As the March 26 Paradise Valley Town Council meeting got underway, the room looked starkly different than it did almost two weeks earlier.
Rather than councilmembers surrounding the table in the Town Hall boardroom, empty chairs lay dormant around a cleared table. Amid the empty room sat Town Clerk Duncan Miller, who was busy at work ensuring the meeting’s new format flowed smoothly.
That format consists of councilmembers meeting telephonically or via video chat while also allowing for residents to chime in remotely. This new format came about after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner to declare a state of emergency in the town.
The federal and state governments have issued numerous guidelines to help dull the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many of these guidelines recommend people stay at home whenever possible and businesses close with the exception of essential operations, which the state outlined.
“I was very impressed with how simple the Town made it for us to get set up and join the video meeting on Zoom. The Mayor Bien-Willner could see that there were people in the virtual hearing and made it a point to make sure that everyone that wanted to participate could, which I thought was great. Participating was as simple as being called on or using the “raise hand” feature during the public comment period. It all went so smoothly someone might think hearings were always done this way.” ~ Omar Abdallah, Attorney at Rose Law Group