It was announced on social media Wednesday, August 11th, that the Raleigh City Council was returning to virtual meetings as a safety precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Not long after, District A Councilor Patrick Buffkin criticized the decision on Twitter saying:

Not everyone appreciates Councilor Buffkin’s criticism of the city council’s return to virtual meetings.

Here is a statement from District A resident Chantelle Miles shared during public comments at the August 17th City Council meeting:

I would like to start by thanking the council for switching to virtual meetings. It was the right decision given the recent surge in the pandemic. I also agree with the recent indoor mask mandate, though I wish the mask mandate was actually enforced.

I am speaking today because I want to bring attention to the gravity of the recent surge in the COVID-19 virus. The CDC reports that the Delta variant is at least two times more contagious; and as we all know, vaccinated individuals are at risk of contracting the virus. Even scarier, the Washington Post reports that some experts are worried that as a country, we may be entering the most dangerous time period for children in the pandemic, who by the way are being hospitalized for COVID at a far higher rate than ever before.

Despite how frightening this surge is, especially as a new school year starts, my district councilor, Patrick Buffkin, was recently on Twitter criticizing the city’s decision to switch to virtual meetings stating that the decision lacked leadership and scientific support. I was appalled reading Councilor Buffkin’s Tweet and could not help but to wonder how he could justify meeting in-person during a deadly pandemic that has already claimed over 600,000 lives in this country. Where is Councilor Buffkin’s leadership?

I would like to end by urging this council to take this surge in the pandemic seriously. If meeting in-person is important to you, then allow virtual public comments. If you need to consult the General Assembly, then ask Raleigh’s city attorney and legislative lobbyist to take action. In the meantime, find ways to both enforce the mask mandate and to incentivize vaccinations. Otherwise, your recent efforts are just empty gestures.

Chantelle Miles

Chantelle Miles is a resident of District A and constituent of Councilor Buffkin. She is a member of Livable Raleigh’s Advisory Committee.