Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Common Council Transforms Meetings

For social distancing: no full council meetings, remote voting allowed, no media on site.

By - Mar 18th, 2020 01:26 pm
Mayor Tom Barrett presents his 2020 budget to the Milwaukee Common Council. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Mayor Tom Barrett presents his 2020 budget to the Milwaukee Common Council. File photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“THIS DOCUMENT CAN AND WILL CHANGE,” warned City Clerk Jim Owczarski in a Monday morning email outlining new policies designed to enable the city’s legislative arm to continue to function amid a global pandemic.

It sure did.

Owczarski outlined Common Council policies designed to restrict the number of people in attendance to 25, including locking doors when capacity was met, and maintain social distancing practices.

Monday and Tuesday’s Common Council committee meetings operated with minimal disruption. The five-member Judiciary & Legislation and Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development committees met under a limit of no more than 25 people in the room. The zoning committee allowed an applicant to appear via phone, one committee member was excused and another sat far back from the meeting table whenever possible.

By Tuesday afternoon the Common Council had updated its rules in response to Governor Tony Evers ban of all public gatherings of 10 persons or more.

The 10-person limit poses a logistical issue for the 15-member Common Council. Staff required to hold full council meetings pushes attendance to more than 20 people  and prospective licensees denied at committee push that total even higher. Even the 25-person limit was expected to be a challenge.

As a result, the full Common Council meetings will be held with an unusual twist. Not all of the members will be in attendance, but they will be allowed to vote. “There are plans to conduct full meetings of the Council by proxy (via Go to Meeting, etc.) whereby Council members will not necessarily be physically present in the Council Chamber to conduct business,” said public information manager and council Seargent-at-Arms Bill Arnold via email. “No members of the media will be granted access.”

The meetings will continue to be broadcast on the City Channel (online, channel 25 on Spectrum and channel 99 on Uverse). Recorded proceedings are available on

Committee meetings will allow media members when possible, but priority will be given to individuals deemed necessary to conduct the business of meetings. That includes applicants and their attorneys as well as city staff.

“We greatly appreciate your patience during this unprecedented time,” said Arnold.

Urban Milwaukee will continue to cover the proceedings, but for the time being it will be from outside of City Hall.

The Common Council has a special meeting scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday with a single agenda item: ratifying Mayor Tom Barrett‘s state of emergency proclamation. Its next regularly scheduled meeting is March 24th. The committees, at this point, continue to meet on their regular schedule.

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

Categories: City Hall, Politics

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us