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Council to Open Doors Tuesday, Boards and Commissions Could Keep Them Closed

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By Lookout Staff

April 11, 2022 -- During its first meeting in more than two years with the public present, the City Council will pave the way for Boards and Commissions to continue meeting remotely.

In its report to the Council, City staff is recommending that Boards and Commissions continue to hold remote meetings "unless and until any decides to meet in person."

"In recent days, County Health Officials have warned there has been a rise in the number of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 cases," staff wrote.

"Members of Boards and Commissions previously voiced concern about being required to return to in-person meetings" given that many people remain at risk "for severe illness from COVID-19."

This, staff said, is especially true of "those with identified underlying medical conditions, unvaccinated older adults, (and) people from ethnic and racial minority groups."

To keep the option of meeting remotely open -- as well as the opportunity for the Council to switch back in the event of an outbreak -- the Council on Tuesday must approve a resolution making the findings required by State law.

Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last September, Assembly Bill 361 extended the authority of public agencies to continue holding virtual meetings during the ongoing coronavirus emergency, which was declared more than two years ago.

Meetings held via teleconferencing, which includes video, require the City to identify ways the public can watch or participate. The City also must allow the public to submit comments during the meetings and address the legislative body in real time.

In the event of a technical disruption, "the legislative body shall take no further action on items appearing on the agenda until public access to the meeting" is restored.

When the Council opens its doors to the public on Tuesday, testimony will no longer be taken via phone, City officials said.

Members of the public who wish to weigh in on an issue must either attend the meeting or submit comments in writing by noon on the day the Council meets.

Until Tuesday, no Council, commission, board or task force meeting had been open to the public since an emergency order was issued by former City Manager Rick Cole on March 16, 2020 closing City Hall.

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