Full Public Participation in City Council Meetings Must Be Ensured During the COVID-19 Crisis!

The Voice of OC recently noted that “Throughout the coronavirus shutdown, many of Orange County’s public agencies have struggled to provide access for constituent voices to be heard.”

In Irvine, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced our city to limit in-person participation for members of the public during City Council meetings.  As a result, since the onset of social distancing and emergency public safety measures in March 2020, members of the public have been limited in their ability to participate in the decisions made by the City Council during public meetings.

Currently, the public can make comments only through the eComment feature on the City of Irvine website, and only a very limited number of these comments have been read aloud during our live City Council meetings.

I believe this situation raises serious questions about government openness and public participation under the Brown Act, which states that “the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”  As I told the Voice of OC, “This isn’t actually a hearing, [since] there’s no testimony from the public.”

Clearly, we need to do much better to ensure public participation in our City Council meetings, while still maintaining public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

For this reason, Councilmember Farrah Khan and I have placed a discussion for better accommodating public participation and accessibility on the agenda for the Irvine City Council meeting on August 11, 2020. 

In addition, we must also ensure that the public can fully participate in our very important Commission meetings.

We look forward to hearing from City staff, the Mayor and other City Councilmembers, and the public, on ways to best ensure full public participation in our meetings during the COVID-19 crisis.

Please use the eComment feature to make your views on this important topic known to the Mayor and the City Council.

Watch the City Council meeting live online HERE.