Post-COVID government operations to become norm, says mayor

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KINGSTON – Kingston Mayor Steve Noble speculated virtual public meetings and government work-from-home positions will become part of the norm after their utilization during the pandemic.

During a Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress virtual event Wednesday, Mayors Steve Noble, Joseph DeStefano of Middletown, and Rob Rolison of Poughkeepsie shared the surprising wins in city government that came as part of the forced evolution imposed by COVID.

After being forced to adjust by the pandemic, city leaders said benefits such as outdoor dining, increased interest in public parks and waterfronts, digital municipal bill pay, more efficient use of courts and universal agreements for shared services were realized in a way that had not been explored before.

Among those, Noble said that virtual conferencing has increased participation in government and Kingston has been able to get a significant increase in public input on many projects because of it.

“Virtual meetings have worked out really well for us,” said Noble. “We’ve also had a lot more people. We’ve got a lot of projects. We’ve been really trying to get a lot more public input; and so, we’ve been able to get a lot more people,” he said.

Noble added that city employees had never been able to work from home before; but, looking to the future, this may be a good fit for certain candidates and could also save money.

“I think going forward, there may be folks who should work from home for whatever reason and there could be future cost savings to local government if we do and are able to bring on new employees without having to build new space for them to work in,” said Noble.

According to the mayor, this wouldn’t be a full-on transition, city employees will go to work in person again and meetings will also be held in person, but there will be a balance between virtual and in-person that had never existed before.

Pattern for Progress are continuing the series, which talks to local government leaders about governance during and after the pandemic, with a discussion between the Ulster, Orange and Dutchess County Executives on March 25th.