Green Bay slowly reopening city hall, council meetings
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The City of Green Bay is slowly returning to business as usual as staff prepares the reopening of city hall Wednesday, April 7.
“We will have all six floors reopening to the public,” said Mayor Eric Genrich. “My directive to department heads is not to all of a sudden return to normal business, or pre-pandemic business. We’ve been staggering shifts for some time here. Of course, masking and physical distancing, and all those safeguards will continue to be in place. But we will be enabling folks from the public to come in and do some in-person business. I think we’ve been very successful in flexibly offering services to people in a largely remote environment. But I think we can offer in-person services as well. That is kind of the next phase we are moving into.”
Up next is a return to reopening in-person council meetings, but that date is still unclear.
At its meeting Tuesday, March 30, alders referred a request to the mayor’s office to bring back a detailed plan for a return to in-person meetings to the May 4 meeting.
“We have to have the safety precautions – the masking, the social distancing, where we will sit, where the public will sit, how will we ensure staff is OK,” said Barbara Dorff, council vice president. “I don’t believe we would be ready to go back before June. I don’t want anyone that is vulnerable to feel pressured to come and sit in an in-person meeting.”
Some alders showed interest in continuing to offer a virtual option for those who can’t or don’t want to attend meetings in person.
“In the long term, is there a way we can continue (a virtual option)?” said District 4 Alder Bill Galvin. “I’ve been really astounded and impressed with the amount of public participation that has been allowed for our committee and council meetings due to COVID with our Zoom meetings. People who normally wouldn’t get involved in these meetings, or make public statements at meetings, are sharing their thoughts and experiences and opinions with us.”
District 7 Alder Randy Scannell noted the benefits of a hybrid option for the council.
“I would also like it, if it is possible, for alders to Zoom in even after this is all over,” he said. “Certainly there have been times when alders are sick or on vacation, this way they could still perhaps participate. If we could have hybrid (meetings) going forward, I think that would be a benefit for the council as well as the community.”
Genrich said he recognizes the benefits of hybrid meetings, but those also bring complications.
“It is certainly something to consider,” Genrich said. “I recognize having that option for council, of having that option for the public, but as your chair, it is a little complicated as well. So that is something to take into account. It’s a balancing effort for sure for reopening.”
Face mask ordinance
Genrich said Tuesday’s agenda didn’t include an extension of the citywide mask mandate, which expires March 31.
“If I were a betting man, I would probably bet on an extension at the state level,” Genrich said.
“But we don’t have any hard guarantees that that will take place.”
If it isn’t extended, Genrich said he would reach out to council leadership to possibly call a special council meeting to extend the city’s face covering requirement.
“I’m hoping, and expecting, that will be extended at the state level,” he said. “And if that’s the case then we won’t have to return for a city requirement.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the statewide mask mandate March 31 on a 4-3 vote.
November 2020 election update
City attorney Vanessa Chavez gave an update on the report she is compiling in regards to the integrity of the November 2020 election amidst allegations of city wrongdoing.
Chavez sent an update to alders earlier this week, but said the report is not finalized.
“It is not final at this point only because I am still talking to people,” she said. “But from the discussions that I have had, nothing has changed as far as my opinion of the integrity of the elections.”
Chavez said she reached out to former city clerk Kris Teske and former deputy clerk Kim Wayte, but neither responded to her requests.
Moreover, she said she contacted the former Brown County clerk Sandy Juno, who had no comment.
“I spoke with the Wisconsin Elections Commission,” she said. “I also spoke to the employees at the KI Center to obtain their recollections of events. And then I am also waiting to hear from Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein. After that I believe my report will be ready to be finalized. As I stated, I haven’t seen any new information that has changed my opinion of integrity of the election.”
Once finalized, the report will be made available to the public.