Will the bamberg city council be able to act if corona forces individual mandate holders into quarantine?? The question is quite justified. In this week alone, meetings had to be cancelled in aschaffenburg and in schillingsfurst (ansbach district), for example, because city councillors or administrative staff fell ill with corona, and in neuburg/donau two mayors and half the city council went into quarantine. For volt city councilor hans-gunter brunker it is long past five to twelve.
Two applications, many signatories
He fears that in such cases a normal session in the city council and senates cannot be maintained. "But we can no longer afford such a long interruption as in the spring/summer", he states. "Meetings must take place." A broad phalanx from grunes bamberg/odp/volt, SPD, bamberger linke liste, freie wahler and bambergs mitte has now not only requested that the meetings be broadcast live on the internet in the future. Some also call for city councilors to be able to join meetings via videotaping.
"The background to the application is also the steadily increasing number of infections in our region", says SPD faction chairman klaus stieringer. "We have already had good experiences with video conferencing at supervisory board meetings." Accordingly, he is optimistic that meetings could also function online or with participants connected online.
Proposals with so many signatories should actually have a good chance of gaining a majority in the city council. There is only one crucial snag: the bavarian municipal code stipulates, among other things, that city council members must be present on site in order to be able to debate and make decisions. Article 48 provides for the compulsory attendance of council members at meetings and votes, and article 52 states that meetings must be held "in a room accessible to the general public" must take place.
However, this does not refer to virtual space, because unlike in baden-wurttemberg, the bavarian state parliament could not bring itself to make a corresponding change in the corona year in april. On the initiative of the FDP, this was discussed in the state parliament – but the CSU, SPD, grune and freie wahler voted against it. In response to a question from hans-gunter brunker, the bavarian ministry of the interior also emphasized that "presence" is not a requirement as "physically present" to be understood.
The last few weeks and months have shown "that the municipalities are still able to act in times of the corona pandemic on the basis of the existing regulations of the municipal laws". Brunker is stunned by this: "we can’t afford to have no meetings for weeks on end again. For me, the CSU state government proves with such revisions how backward it actually is."
He is by no means talking about pure videoconferencing. Rather, the first step is to create the possibility of connecting individual city council members who are unable to participate in person. This would be desirable not only with regard to risk groups, to people who might fall ill, and to city council members who are under quarantine. Even in non-corona times, for example, someone who is on a business trip could have a say in the matter.
And the second proposal would make it possible for the public to participate in the meetings without having to be there. Privacy concerns are always a killer argument in this context: "personal rights must always be respected, but if someone is elected to public office, why doesn’t he want to be seen as physically present??"
Technically well equipped
As far as the possible broadcasting of meetings via livestream is concerned, stefan goller, the city’s economic advisor responsible for digitalization, is also very open-minded. He is currently examining the technical and legal framework conditions. Promptly, he then wanted to report to the city council what had to be done and what it had cost.
However, the "quite justified wish, also from goller’s point of view, to be able to hold city council meetings as videoconferences" is not a matter of urgency he says that the current law stands in the way of this.
But goller could well imagine the online connection of individual city council members.
"We will experience that also with us again city council meetings must be canceled", klaus stieringer is convinced. "We must try to exert our influence through the government of upper franconia." Because especially before one of the most difficult and complex budget negotiations in the city’s history, it is important to remain capable of acting. "This is not a decision that must be made next year. This is a matter of urgency."
At least the technical equipment of the city councils was not the reason for the failure of the online meeting: the city councils were already equipped with modern tablets a long time before corona.
COMMENT by stefan fobel
Difficult to understand
Admittedly, not every videoconference runs perfectly. But not least, corona has also contributed to the fact that structures and technology have had to change in this country, and that the acceptance of virtual exchange has also increased enormously. Party congresses, conferences and government declarations naturally also take place on digital paths. It is therefore difficult to understand why it should not be possible to connect individual rates in bavaria’s cities and municipalities. Because the ability to act, which according to the ministry of the interior is always available, must be questioned. What remains to be done when meetings are constantly canceled and must be governed by emergency senate or urgent appeals?? Why can’t a city council have a say, which is only in quarantane? The municipalities deserved more trust here. And a tool that could provide more freedom of action.