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Council Poised to Change Public Input Rules for Remote Meetings

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By Lookout Staff

April 27, 2020 -- The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday to allow the public to call in during meetings held via teleconferencing during the coronavirus emergency.

To date, public comments have only been accepted in writing -- by noon for distribution online on the date of the meeting and in writing during the meeting to be read into the public record.

The proposed changes extend the deadline for submission of written comments to 2 p.m. and allow members of the public to "call in during a time period before the meeting or during the meeting," staff wrote in their report.

"The queue will be closed immediately prior to the beginning of public comment, and the teleconference service provider will then draw people off the queue, opening a line to permit them to provide public comment," staff said.

The standard 2-minute time limit for oral comments would remain, but the Council could lower the limit to 1 minute per speaker and/or an aggregate total of 3 hours for a particular item "if the public comment queue for any particular item reaches 100 or more."

The proposed rule changes eliminate the ability to donate time to other speakers "because this cannot be implemented using the available teleconferencing procedures," staff said.

Council meeting have been held remotely since Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on March 17 authorizing municipal governments to conduct meetings via teleconference while social distancing requirements are in place.

"Until recently, there was no procedure that would allow those wishing to provide oral comment at public meetings to do so via teleconference," staff wrote in their report.

"Instead, the City implemented procedures under which individuals could provide written comments during the meeting and those comments were read into the record at the meeting at the appropriate time."

If approved, the changes would go into effect at the next regularly scheduled Council meeting May 5.

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