In this file shot of the Dade County Commission, Commissioners (from left) Lamar Lowery, Phillip Hartline, Ted Rumley, Robert Goff and Allan Bradford are not sitting six feet apart. At next week's April meeting, that will change.
The Dade County Commission has always welcomed citizens to attend its monthly meetings and to show up at its public hearings, and The Dade Planet for its part has exhorted them nearly nonstop to participate in democracy.
The cornonavirus pandemic has changed all that.
Dade County Clerk Don Townsend issued to the media today the following exhortation: "Please alert the general public we are requesting citizens and visitors stay in the comfort of their homes to watch next Thursday’s meeting due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing guidance requested by the President Donald Trump and ordered by Governor Brian Kemp.
Townsend said Commission Chairman Ted Rumley has scaled back the agenda for the April 3 meeting to keep it short.
"Dade County will host the meeting on Facebook Live and the meeting will be posted to the County’s new social media platforms, including: YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PHXsg3Dny8 Facebook Live link: https://www.facebook.com/DadeCountyGA/videos/2951958668199034/?t=25," wrote Townsend.
As a practical matter, "liking" the "Dade County GA" Facebook page should be enough to ensure notification when the commission goes live.
The county meetings have been streamed live on Facebook by local media outlets for a couple of years now, but the county itself became technilogically ept only with the advent of the coronavirus crisis. The county responded to the need to get huge chunks of information out to the citizens quickly by organizing daily briefings livestreamed at 3 p.m. each day on its Facebook page, and available there later for citizens to review at their leisure. (A link to those videos is also available on The Planet's FB page.)
No one has stepped forward to claim credit for Dade's sudden and rather dazzling self-catapult into the Information Age, but The Planet's suspicions focus on Carey Anderson, Dade's deputy clerk for information.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the Administrative Building, and The Planet will not for once append to that announcement, "The public is welcome and encouraged to attend."
Because, in this strange and historical time, the public is not.