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Council to Take Another Step Towards Conducting Public Meetings In-Person

Published on Monday, November 21, 2022 | 5:13 am

The City Council will receive direction on Monday on returning to live meetings.

“As staff prepares to resume in-person public meetings, there are policy suggestions for the City Council to consider, including potential increased costs to support both in person and remote meeting technology simultaneously,” according to a City staff report. “The use of remote meeting technology, such as Zoom, could be used, subject to the remote meeting provisions of the Brown Act and the availability of the requisite staffing and technology infrastructure available in the designated meeting location.”

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.

According to a City Staff report, it would cost the City $700,00 to conduct remote public comments at the City Council and its committees and commission meetings.

It would cost $300,000 to have remote comments at the council and its committees and $200,000 annually if remote public comment was limited to City Council meetings. 

According to City staff report the City is not yet ready to implement remote public comment at all bodies. 

City Manager Miguel Marquez said in October it would take extra staff and manpower to hold hybrid meetings. 

“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,” Márquez said last month.

Mayor Victor Gordo has expressed his desire to open the chamber doors to the public for in-person meetings.

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.

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. 

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary changes to the Brown Act that governs public meetings were enacted to allow for remote meetings of all City legislative bodies. Many government agencies are now returning to in-person meetings; a subset are continuing some level of remote participation.” 

“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.”

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