The Erie County Legislature held its first committee meeting by video conference Thursday.
Legislators said, with the coronavirus concerns, they're trying to find the best way to do their job and practice social distancing.
"I thought it went very well. I thought that legislators were able to ask the questions that they thought were important and I thought that commissioner Berstein did an outstanding job," Health and Human Services Committee Chair Lisa Chimera said.
During HHS committee meeting, held via Zoom, County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein provided an update about the coronavirus pandemic.
"It wasn't just information on budgetary information that will be put for the before us in the near future but it was also information on how we can be part of the solution," Chimera said.
The meeting lasted roughly an hour with about 60 people present, including legislative staff, members of the media and the community. Chimera believes the first run was a success although she points out it was an informational meeting, not a formal legislative session.
"That perhaps could be challenging as a Legislature when we have issues, resolutions that need to be changed, enhanced," she said.
Minority Leader Joe Lorigo said, while he understands why the legislators conducted the meeting remotely, he would have preferred they met in person. His conference did go to Old County Hall, Thursday.
"I think it sends the right messaging to county employees that we're still willing to come to work. I think we were all able to stay in our offices and do it. We were able to talk to each other beforehand and after, keeping social distancing in mind," Lorigo said.
He said if the Legislature plans to continue to videoconference, it needs to address potential conflicts with Robert's Rules of Order and open meeting laws.
"My colleagues across the aisle who are in charge have to make sure that before we have our first actual official meeting, they have all of those questions answered," he said.
Lorigo said the format did make it more difficult to ask natural follow-up questions and he wants more details on testing procedures, how information is being gathered for the predictive models the county is using, and how the administration can use incoming federal money to stimulate the economy.
"We need more than just the standard daily briefing we've been getting from the county executive's administration every day. I left with a number of questions unanswered really," he said.
Chimera said she was pleased with the information the health commissioner gave including recommending ways legislators can help their constituents get through the crisis. She pointed out the situation is constantly developing.
"From a Health and Human Services Committee standpoint I believe that these will be occurring frequently," she said.