By KENDRA SITTON | La Mesa Courier
Citizens participating more in their government’s public meetings is just one of the changes that coronavirus has wrought. Since La Mesa City Council meetings have switched to Zoom, public comments have exploded during the meetings as there is greater accessibility to participate from home.
A proposal brought forward by Council members Colin Parent and Bill Baber aims to keep up that participation even when the public emergency ends.
In the Tuesday, Feb. 9 meeting, the council voted to approve the measure which accomplishes two things, according to Parent. It would immediately ask staff to find a way for the meetings to include live audio testimony. Currently, most public comments are sent via email ahead of or during the meeting. In addition, the proposal calls for a sub-committee to be formed which would find ways to extend public participation even after coronavirus restrictions are ended and the city council resumes in-person meetings.
“The reason I think that is important is right now there are people participating in our meetings who wouldn’t otherwise in the before times because they don’t have childcare or they’re taking care of a loved one or they’re just not able to physically be at a meeting and now we’ve discovered there are ways to allow them to participate,” Parent said. “I wanna make sure we’re considering ways to allow them to do that even when it’s not required.”
Mayor Mark Arapostathas asked several questions about the proposal to ensure that it would not put an undue burden on staff.
“We need to move into the 21st century because we’re here already but I want to allow some grace,” Arapostathas said.
A staff member present said that the city currently does not have the technology to allow citizens to call into a meeting that is happening in person. Seeking to fix that would be part of the sub-committees work.
The sub-committee will include Parent and any other council members who volunteer.
All council members voted in favor of the measure moving forward.
— Reach contributing editor Kendra Sitton at firstname.lastname@example.org.