Four of Baker City’s six newly elected city councilors will be sworn in this afternoon on the front steps of City Hall, three hours before their first official meeting begins.
The two others are slated to be sworn in during the meeting this evening.
Councilors Johnny Waggoner Sr., Shane Alderson, Joanna Dixon and Kerry McQuisten will be sworn in at 4 p.m. on the front steps at City Hall, 1655 First St.
Councilors Heather Sells and Jason Spriet will be sworn in at the start of the Council’s regular meeting starting at 7 p.m., also at City Hall.
Spriet is the lone incumbent among the six councilors elected on Nov. 3.
The six will join incumbent Lynette Perry to comprise the seven-member City Council. Perry is in the middle of a four-term term and was not up for reelection.
The four councilors who will be sworn in this afternoon requested that option so their family and friends could attend since it will happen outside.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance inside City Hall is limited, and people are required to wear face masks.
Although the public notice for tonight’s meeting from City Recorder Katie LaFavor states that this evening’s Council meeting will take place via Zoom, with limited space for the public and the press, several councilors said they planned to attend in person.
In an email to LaFavor, Perry wrote: “I think it is VERY IMPORTANT that the first meeting with this many new council members be in person at City Hall!!! There should be plenty of room for six foot distancing. We have done it in the past.”
In a response to Perry, LaFavor wrote: “We are in the midst of a pandemic, and OSHA has required masks be mandatory while inside city hall. Some new Council has expressed that they, or family members and friends who wish to attend, are unable or simply prefer not to wear masks, and that is ok. We are trying to be respectful and accommodating by offering oaths outside. There are certain communities in Oregon who are strictly virtual, oaths included.”
McQuisten, in an email to LaFavor, echoed Perry’s point.
“It’s critical for Council Chambers, and therefore our local government process, to be as fully open and transparent to the public as possible,” McQuisten wrote. “This means every public meeting, in my opinion, should see those Chambers open to Council and to the citizenry. It is true that certain other cities have chosen differently, but I’ve found that has little bearing on what’s right. Livestreams do not allow the public to fully interact with their own government. Zoom is an excellent alternative, which I think should also be kept in place for Council members and members of the public who either can’t or don’t wish to attend in person.”
Alderson and Sells both said they prefer to have councilors meet in person this evening.
Councilors, in addition to having their first meeting with newly hired City Manager Jonathan Cannon, will elect from among their ranks a new mayor and vice mayor.
“I see great value in attending the very first meeting of 2021 face to face (keeping a safe distance),” Sells wrote to the Herald. “However, it should ultimately be up to each individual to decide which method they are most comfortable with. I appreciate the flexibility the city is providing to the new council, city staff, and citizens to participate and feel it’s important to give choice during the unique time.”