The Village of Oak Park is exploring a return to in-person meetings in September, according to Oak Park spokesman Erik Jacobsen. A specific date has not yet been determined, but the Tuesday after Labor Day is not in consideration.
While village board meetings are typically held in Oak Park Village Hall, the village board has not met there since March 13, 2020, when trustees voted to declare COVID-19 a public health emergency.
The village board and its commissions have been meeting virtually exclusively more than two years due to the pandemic, with the exception of the swearing-in ceremony of new elected village officials on May 3, 2021. The masked ceremony was held in the Oak Park Department of Public Works building.
Meeting virtually has had its benefits, according to Village President Vicki Scaman, particularly for the village’s citizen commissions and guest speakers. The ability to log into Zoom from home has made it easier to attend commission meetings, some of which can last up to four hours, depending on the topic and commission. It has also eliminated the burden of finding childcare for board members and commissioners with young children.
While she said she would be “supportive” of a hybrid solution, where meetings were held-in person with the ability for trustees, guests or commissioners to attend via Zoom, the village does not have the authority to enact such a change. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has that authority.
“What we need is for the governor to make a change to the Open Meetings Act, so that municipalities can make their own judgment when it comes to using both Zoom and in-person,” she said.