The Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward with a motion that would allow the indefinite option for city officials, to hold remote meetings.
Remote meetings became commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic and the city council seeks to make it a permanent option for not only the council, but commissions, boards and advisories.
In order to do so, an amendment to the Ralph M. Brown Act would have to take place, as the California law gives the public the right to attend all meetings, something that would prove to be difficult if done remotely.
During the pandemic, California passed Assembly Bill 361, allowing for the exception of the Brown Act through January 31, 2023, when the COVID-19 state of emergency is set to expire. The bill gave all legislative bodies the option to hold the teleconferences, as Los Angeles did with its meetings.
Concerns of the public being shut out were expressed loudly during Tuesday’s meeting, with the majority of those who spoke during public comment showing displeasure toward the motion.
Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah was among those who addressed the council Tuesday, accusing the council of using the items to “duck and dodge the public.”
“We say that all meetings should be open to the public so they have to see our faces, they have to hear our voices, they can’t tune us out,” Abdullah said in front of the council. “You have to be willing to stand for the public and not just the system that steals Black life.”
In the 12-1 vote, the lone “no” vote came from Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, who expressed concerns about her district’s lack of access to internet service and technological issues it faced during the pandemic.
“I represent a district that doesn’t always have access to the capacity to engage online,” Rodriguez said. “That is just the nature of the socioeconomic dynamic in my district and we want to be able to provide the public with both options.”
Rodriguez said she could not support the items as written for the fear of remote meetings becoming the exclusive option and reducing the public’s voice in these meetings.
“Communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the lack of internet access, the means of participating and having the resources to engage,” Rodriguez added. “For that reason I have to be responsible and exercise my ‘no vote’ on this.”
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