Town halls go virtual for City Council

Members of the Atlanta City Council are finding ways to continue to connect with the public amid the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of City Hall.

On April 7, Council members Andrea Boone, Marci Collier Overstreet, Michael Julian Bond and Andre Dickens participated in the Small Business COVID-19 Crisis Virtual Town Hall moderated by entrepreneur Alicia Ivey. Participants in the town hall heard from a panel of local leaders and business experts who talked about how businesses can access and incorporate new loans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and when entrepreneurs could begin to think about economic recovery.

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On April 6, Council member Natalyn Archibong held a joint town hall with Georgia State Representative Bee Nguyen, which covered a variety of topics, including support for small business, resources available to those impacted by COVID-19, and an overview of state and local directives related to the pandemic.

“Being accessible is very important, particularly in times like this. Being elected means we are the touch point for the community,” Archibong said.

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On April 2, the Atlanta-Fulton Collaborative On-Air Town Hall organized by District 3 Council member Antonio Brown and featuring Council members Farokhi, Andre Dickens, Matt Westmoreland, Marci Collier Overstreet, and Carla Smith was held. The town hall aired live on 1380 AM, V103 FM and WAOK.com and featured a discussion with Council members and Fulton County and state leadership. The public was able to listen to the conversation by dialing a toll-free line and questions could also be called in to the station.

“Residents are understandably concerned and have a lot of questions. This is a difficult time and we wanted to ensure we’re staying connected,” Brown said. “Our town hall was aimed at helping residents know what resources are out there and what’s available for mental health assistance to reduce stress and anxiety.”

Also during the town hall, state updates and information about resources available for small businesses were made by Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, City Planning Commissioner Tim Keane, and Sebastian Barron, Governor’s Office Atlanta Field Representative. Fulton County Commissioner Natalie Hall provided information about resources available at the county level and Chief Magistrate Judge Cassandra Kirk offered an update about the judicial emergency orders given for the area. Kevin Sinha, founder of CivicGeorgia, gave information about the Census 2020 and community engagement. Dr. Keisha Buchanan provided tips related to mental health to assist those dealing with stress and anxiety.

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District 2 Council member Amir Farokhi held a series of virtual town halls from March 24-26 as part of the City’s ongoing efforts to keep the public informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. Each town hall was geared toward a specific audience — business owners, residents, and the arts and culture community. Following the virtual meetings, video recordings from each were provided online, along with PowerPoint slide decks that were presented.

To connect with constituents, Farokhi asked residents to RSVP through email for a Zoom link and call-in number.

“One benefit of the virtual town hall is that you end up reaching people that don’t have time or don’t have the infliction to attend a neighborhood meeting or a public meeting, so we’ve expanded the number of people we’ve connected with,” Farokhi said.

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