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City Council Left Speechless

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By Jorge Casuso

November 16, 2022 -- According to some of those present, Tuesday night's City Council meeting was one of the most memorable and entertaining in memory.

Especially the debate over Mayor Sue Himmelrich's request that the Council adopt a Statement of Apology to African-American residents for "the pain caused by several decades of racial injustice and discrimination."

But you had to be there.

A major technical glitch wiped out the audio and rendered the backup recording a constant hum, leaving viewers in the lobby, on YouTube and on the City's website watching a silent video.

"We had no idea that none of the audio outputs were working," said Constance Farrell, the City's spokesperson.

"This was a very unfortunate failure of the sound system that we're actively working to fix," Farrell said. "It's beyond unfortunate."

The audio went out out before the Council broke for closed session, said Councilmember Oscar de la Torre and "was supposed to be fixed" when the Council returned.

"I was aware at the beginning," said Himmelrich, "but I didn't know it hadn't been restored."

For two years after a health emergency was declared in March 2020, the Council held virtual meetings its members attended from home, with the public providing testimony by phone.

The virtual meetings required that 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.

That requirement was lifted once the Council returned to in-person meetings this April, Himmelrich said.

Since then, glitches have hampered the new audio-visual system instaled shortly before the coronavirus shutdown. "It happens all the time," Himmelrich said.

The City Clerk will make the minutes of the meeting available soon, but there will be no official recording of the audio.

"The technical issues also impacted our ability to record sound," according to the City Clerk's office. "Unfortunately, there will not be a completed video for the public to watch from the 11/15 meeting."

But Councilmembers noticed that several members of the public were videotaping the proceedings on their phones.

If they submit copies to the City, a bootleg version of what several Council members called a memorable meeting might become available to the public.

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