On Tuesday, for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Birmingham City Council opted for an all-virtual council meeting — though, at least initially, that format kept them from accomplishing much.
Council President William Parker initially floated the idea of teleconferenced meetings during the beginning of the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, but the council, instead, continued to gather in its chambers with masks and spaced seating. The recent spike in cases — along with Mayor Randall Woodfin’s recent COVID diagnosis and hospitalization — finally pushed the councilors fully online.
But there they were reminded by city attorney Nicole King that they could perform only “essential functions of the city,” which on Tuesday mostly consisted of declaring 19 dilapidated buildings to be public nuisances, approving payment for city vehicle repairs and allocating small neighborhood expenditures.
Half the items on Tuesday’s agenda, mostly noxious weed abatements, were delayed because they required the opportunity for public comment, which was not an option in the teleconference format.
During the 10-minute meeting, Woodfin chief of staff Cedric Sparks did provide the council with a brief update on the mayor’s condition. The city announced Monday night that he had been hospitalized with COVID-related pneumonia. Sparks said Tuesday morning that Woodfin “is in very great spirits” and that city business would continue in his absence.
“Just know that the team is ready to assist, and we’re going to keep moving forward,” Sparks said.