The first of the Board of Supervisors’ “listening sessions” to gauge the breadth of Riverside County business losses and economic turmoil stemming from the coronavirus-related lockdowns and determine adjustments to county services to better meet residents’ needs will be held Tuesday.
In August, the board unanimously approved holding three sessions in what Supervisor Kevin Jeffries described as an attempt at “listening and trying to get a grip on the challenges we face.”
“We need to build a consensus and have thoughtful, deep discussions,” he said. “We will be moving slowly and carefully on this.”
Tuesday’s session will be in the board chamber at the County Administrative Center in downtown Riverside beginning at 1:30 p.m. In addition to in-person testimony, the county is inviting the public to participate via phone. In order to reserve time, participants need to visit www.RivcoCob.org, where they can click on a “Request to Speak” tab to join the queue. Written comments may also be submitted via the same portal.
Officials asked that time be reserved at least 24 hours in advance.
Supervisor Manuel Perez joined Jeffries in requesting the sessions, which he said are centered on an “inclusionary process” intended to give everyone a voice.
The board requested assistance from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy to monitor the sessions, tracking the primary complaints and most pressing needs of speakers, then drafting a report containing the main themes, which will be submitted to the board in the next few months.
“Unemployment, economic distress, loss of life, business closures, rental and mortgage difficulties, children distance learning with working parents and many other impacts will have a lasting effect for years to come,” according to a board statement earlier this month. “For these reasons and more, the intent of the board listening sessions is to hear directly from those most affected.”
Possible racial inequities in policing, health care delivery and education were among Perez’s principal concerns when he called for the sessions.
Each one will begin with an overview of the county budget, after which, agencies’ responsibilities to the public will be described, and participants will be given allotted times to address the board.
“The path we need now is to listen first, discuss, review, then put items on the agenda,” Jeffries said.
The first session is scheduled from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, with additional sessions on the calendar for Oct. 6, between 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and on Oct. 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
During its regular meeting on Nov. 10, the board will discuss whether additional sessions are needed.
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