PORTLAND, Ore. — A new executive order issued by Governor Kate Brown directs local governments and state agencies to do whatever they can to keep the public involved in decision-making, in spite of current statewide social distancing measures.
The order mandates that agencies "take necessary measures to facilitate public participation in decision-making, helping ensure the continued operation of local government and the delivery of essential services during the COVID-19 outbreak."
“Public participation in government decision-making is fundamental to our representative form of government,” said Governor Kate Brown. “While the COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we live, work, and operate, we still must ensure that every voice is heard by elected officials and other policymakers and that the critical functions of local government can continue unimpeded.”
The Governor's office underlined that many local governments will begin drawing up budgets this month, and the order will give them the "authority and flexibility" to keep the public engaged in order to approve spending on essential services.
Governments throughout Oregon are directed to hold public meetings and hearings by telephone, online, or through in-person meetings with "appropriate social distancing measures." It also waives any requirements for in-person public testimony if it can be made by any other means.
Cities, counties, school districts, and other special districts are authorized to hold budget hearings — getting public participation through remote means in order to complete budgets on time. The Governor's office cited police, fire, emergency response, street maintenance, water and sewer access, and building permits as essential services that need to be budgeted for.
"All government entities are still expected to ensure their processes provide equal access to all Oregonians, and that their processes for virtual public participation do not impact accessibility," the Governor's office said.