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Council Votes to Support Ukraine, Continue Barring In-Person Meetings
 

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By Jorge Casuso

March 10, 2022 -- The City Council on Tuesday voted to continue holding strictly virtual meeting until April 7 and to divest Russiann assets from City funds to protest the invasion of Ukraine.

The Ukraine vote -- sponsored by Councilmember Phil Brock and Lana Negrete -- continues a trend by local officials to weigh in in national and international affairs over the past four decades.

Santa Monica joined a number of cities across the U,.S. that have attempted tp punish Russia by divesting government funds from Russian assests.

Unlike some of the larger cities or government entities that have funds totaling tens of billions of dollars, the amount of Russian assets invested in Santa Monica's limited funds is unclear.

Brock has said the 6 to 0 vote -- which also made Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy an honorary citizen of Santa Monica -- is largely symbolic.

"They need every great thought that we could possibly give them," he said, pointing to a bouquet of sunflowers -- Ukraine's national flower -- donated by students from the Will Rogers Learning Community.

"And I hope that all of you in your own way will find ways to help the people of Ukraine overcome the great disaster that is befalling them," Brock said.

The Councilmember item also calls for lobbying State officials to divest government pensions from Russian assets and terminate state contracts with Russian firms.

Since Santa Monicans' for Renters' Rights took over City government in the early 1980s, the Council has used the forum to weigh in on foreign policy, including the 1980s Civil War in El Salvador and the 1997 Civil Rights abuses in Burma.

In a separate item Tuesday, the Council voted to continue barring the public from physically attending government meetings for another month.

The vote came four days after Los Angeles County lifted its indoor mask mandate shortly after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determined it had achieved “low” COVID-19 activity.

The move will "ensure that all members of the public -- including those who are immunocompromised, not fully vaccinated, eligible to be vaccinated or reside with such individuals -- have the opportunity to address the City Council and offer comment in real time."

A State law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September gives local jurisdictions the authority to continue holding virtual meetings during the ongoing coronavirus emergency.

Other cites, including Beverly Hills, are holing hybrid meetings starting this month. Still others, like Long Beach, are requiring participants to appear in person.

In Santa Monica, no Council, commission, board or task force meeting has been physically open to the public since a local health emergency was declared on March 16, 2020.


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