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City Council Takes Concrete Steps Towards Returning to In-Person Meetings

Published on Friday, October 21, 2022 | 5:46 am
 

The City Council on Monday will provide direction to staff for  returning to in-person meetings.

“Many government agencies are now returning to in-person meetings; a subset are continuing some level of remote participation,” according to a City staff report. “As the Council considers returning to in-person meetings, multiple factors should be taken into consideration, including but not limited to: Effective engagement and deliberations of Council and other legislative City bodies, robust local public participation from throughout the community; and complexity of meeting management due to process and technology requirements.”

Several councilmembers have expressed a desire for a hybrid model that would allow people to attend the meetings in person, while others could participate remotely.

The remote model would cost more money, and legally councilmembers that attend remotely must open the location where they are teleconferencing to the public.

“It takes all of our staff to hold an in-person meeting. It takes all of our staff and more to hold a hybrid meeting,” City Manager Miguel Márquez said last month.

According to the Brown Act which governs open meetings across the state, the state legislature amended the Brown Act in the 1990s, allowing local legislative bodies to take advantage of information age technologies for the conduct of public meetings, with certain conditions.

 According to those amendments, there must be a quorum of the legislative body participating from locations within the jurisdiction.

Each remote meeting location must be identified in the meeting agenda.

Meeting agendas must be posted at all teleconference locations; Each remote meeting location must be made “accessible” to the public, presumably including members of the public with disabilities. 

The agenda must allow for public comment at each remote meeting location, and all votes in remote meetings must be taken by roll call Mayor Victor Gordo expressed his desire to open the chamber doors to the public for in-person meetings last month.

“I’d like to see us back in front of the public by the middle of October,” Gordo said. 

The City Council has been meeting virtually — after closing down entirely for a short time —  since a local emergency was declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to continue meeting online, the Council must pass a resolution roughly every 30-days under the terms of Assembly Bill 361.

Beyond that initial 30-day period, it must confirm the circumstances of the state of emergency and make required findings at least 30 days after adoption of the resolution and every 30 days thereafter.

An executive order signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom allowing virtual meetings and suspending parts of the Brown Act, which governs open meetings of legislative bodies, ended on Sept. 30.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ reopened its doors for in-person public attendance for the first time since the early days of the pandemic late last month.

The decision to resume in-person meetings was prompted by the county’s recent move from the “medium” to “low” COVID-19 community activity level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I do think it’s time to be back in person,” Gordo said.

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