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Yakima City Council will discuss the possibility of attending meetings electronically

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima city council members might soon be able to make decisions and vote virtually during meetings.

In a recent study session where only three members showed up in person, some decisions were not able to be made because of the lack of a quorum.

City Spokesman Randy Beehler says the council needs four or more members to be physically present in order to make any type of vote.

“I guess it’s a realization that not all the time can every single council member attend every single meeting and that’s what our council is looking at, is there potential for some other option for participation," said Beehler.

The three council members present at the study session that day talked about a possible virtual participation by councilmembers.

This means council members will be able to watch, listen and vote during meetings by phone or video when they are away.

Councilwoman Carmen Mendez says she agrees with the possibility of being able to vote virtually.

She says she missed out twice on votes that were important to her but because of personal reasons she was not able to attend the meetings.

Mendez also says four of the council members work full time and many times it’s hard for them to attend some meetings.

Beehler says that although there are many pros to allowing virtual presence, there could be some cons.

“What are the controls that are in place when a member is not physically in the room? Who else might be in the room with them, say they are on vacation, who else might be providing them with information about how to participate in a meeting particularly on a vote," said Beehler.

Beehler says many cities around the state allow virtual presence which means it could be something that can be permitted here in Yakima.

He says right now the city policy only allows council members to participate in a meeting if they are physically present but that can change during Tuesday's meeting.

The council will be discussing this new approach and possibly voting on it at Tuesday’s business meeting taking place at city hall at 6 in the evening.

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