Coronavirus Has Some Local Governments Canceling, Teleconferencing Meetings
Social distancing precautions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus are forcing local governments to change how they hold public meetings.
Last Thursday, Governor Newsom issued an executive order suspending part of the state’s open meetings law, called the Brown Act.
Newsom said local city councils and county boards may meet over the telephone or online, and the locations where officials and government staff are teleconferencing in from don’t have to be open to the public. (Telephonic meetings are normally allowed under California’s sunshine laws, but the locations where city officials dial in usually must be publicly announced -- and accessible.)
Most parts of the Brown Act still apply: Regular meeting agendas still must be posted 72 hours in advance and there has to be a physical location open to the public where people can watch the meeting.
HOW ARE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOVERNMENTS MEETING?
- The Los Angeles City Council has canceled all committee meetings and is only meeting with the full council once a week -- on Tuesdays -- for now.
- L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said boards, commissions and the city council will allow remote public comment so people can either call or "use a Facetime-like app to be able to give testimony without coming in-person."
- Tuesday’s L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting is canceled. Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced Sunday that many county buildings will be closed.
- The City of Long Beach has announced it will hold public meetings by teleconference and is encouraging public comment. “It’s very important that social distancing becomes the norm for the time being,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. City Hall will remain open with a skeleton crew, but most employees will work from home. The council and any committees or commissions that need to meet will do so “by teleconference, at least through April,” Garcia said.
- Anaheim spokesperson Lauren Gold said the city is “looking into all options for now,” but will hold meetings as usual this week. Anaheim is encouraging residents who need services like requesting police reports, applying for parking permits, or making inquiries about trash service to access those services online instead of in person.
(Watch for updates to this story)