The City Council approved a pair of resolutions Tuesday supporting state legislation that would allow local legislative bodies, including neighborhood councils, to continue holding remote meetings.
The council voted 12-1 for the resolutions, with Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez dissenting.
Under Assembly Bill 361, governing bodies have been able to meet remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the legislation only allows for remote meetings under a state of emergency. The City Council voted to end Los Angeles’ state of emergency due to COVID-19 at the end of the month.
Assembly Bill 2449, signed into law in September, allows for a version of remote meetings, but only if a quorum of members participate from the same physical location. Additionally, members participating remotely must provide a reason for doing so.
Restrictions on virtual meetings have especially burdened people with family or work obligations who cannot attend Los Angeles government meetings in-person, according to a motion by Council President Paul Krekorian and Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
The motion states that public attendance and comment at meetings since 2020 have increased substantially in Los Angeles.
Another motion, introduced by Councilmen Hugo Soto-Martinez and John Lee, indicates that the city’s 99 neighborhood councils “wish to have the option to meet virtually in perpetuity.” The neighborhood councils all have “unique communities, needs, technology abilities” and access to public meeting spaces, and it is unrealistic to expect them to manage hybrid meetings effectively due to “budget and technology” limitations, the motion states.
Rodriguez voted against the items because she feared that virtual meetings would be made an “exclusive option.” Rodriguez said her San Fernando Valley district lacks equitable access to the Internet, and wanted to ensure the public had the option to attend meetings both in-person and online.
“My concern is that not availing it or being explicit about how we intend to use this would essentially restrict it or redact the public participation to a single means of participating — and that is online,” Rodriguez said.
Several public speakers also voiced opposition, citing the potential for a legislative body such as the police commission to hide from people who may want to speak to officials face-to-face.
“We say that all meetings should be open to the public so that they have to see our faces,” Melina Abdullah, professor at Cal State LA and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, told the council. “They have to hear our voices. They can’t tune us out.”