Remember when people had jobs, and we complained about frivolous things like Mondays and I-4 traffic?
Some folks are still employed and working diligently, including our elected officials on the Orange County Board of County Commissioners. They are meeting today for the first time semi-remotely, practicing self-distancing to help fight the spread of coronavirus. It turned out to be just as inaudible, weird and awkward as your own meetings.
Mayor Jerry Demings joined Commissioners Mayra Uribe, Betsy VanderLey and Victoria Siplin in commission chambers, sitting on the dais with empty chairs between them. Speakers still use the podium to address the commission and an almost empty audience gallery, with whole rows blocked off with yellow tape to prevent sitting.
Commissioners Maribel Gomez Cordero, Emily Bonilla and Christine Moore are all participating remotely via video chat, forming a fidgeting, pyramid-shaped triptych on screen.
"We do have commissioners who have indicated a desire to speak on this subject," Demings said at one point during an affordable housing discussion. "And because our colleagues who cannot be here and push the button, I am going to go to those who are joining us through virtual technology."
"I know more than one person has asked to speak," he continued, looking to a video monitor to find the inquiring commissioner on the chat screen. "I will go first to –"
"Bonilla," said Bonilla, after some feedback ringing sounds.
"Commissioner Moore, I think I saw her move first, so I will go to Commissioner Moore and then Commissioner Bonilla," said Demings to laughter in the chamber.
At certain points, just as in your own meetings, various people cough wildly, lean in to speak too loudly into their microphone, and leave the room entirely while others are speaking. (No elected officials' pets have been seen on camera yet, though we live in hope.) Watching the commissioners adjust to our new shared reality is just one reason it's more entertaining viewing than the usual meeting.
The meeting began at 1:30 p.m. and is likely to continue until the evening. Among the day's items are an affordable housing trust fund plan, a $181,000 recycling grant, and a development proposal for land north of Zellwood Station.