City government meetings can return to virtual, hybrid settings

Some Long Beach public meetings could revert back to virtual or hybrid settings after the City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night that extends some of the COVID-19 statewide emergency measures that had expired last month.

Assembly Bill 361 allows public meetings to be held virtually, much like they were under the previous statewide emergency, while allowing public bodies to forego some of the regular rules that require them to notify the public where each member is joining the meeting from, and allowing the public to provide comment from that location.

The bill also requires government bodies to provide an opportunity for the public to watch and comment virtually, and in some cases removes some local barriers to giving public comment. In Long Beach, it could remove requirements for the public to sign up in advance of a meeting to give public comment.

Despite pulling the resolution from the “consent calendar” (the portion of the council agenda that includes multiple items and is typically approved with one vote), the council voted unanimously to approve it without discussion.

The council’s vote Tuesday will allow all public meeting bodies to elect on a meeting-to-meeting basis if it will meet in person, virtually or hybrid. The rules of AB-361 would automatically be triggered if a single member of the meeting body opts to meet virtually, according to the legislation.

Earlier this month, Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer, recommended that the council and other city commissions move to virtual meetings due to the continued community spread of COVID-19.

Long Beach’s case rate (10 cases per 100,000 residents) and test positivity rate (1.7%) are at their lowest points in months but are still higher than when the state’s economy reopened in June, when the city had just a handful of cases per 100,000 residents daily. Davis told the Post that no outbreaks had been tied to public meetings that had returned to in-person settings.

Several meetings bodies had already requested to take advantage of the AB-361 rules before the City Council approved its resolution Tuesday night.

The Citizen Police Complaint Commission, Marine Advisory Commission and the Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Disabilities have all requested to meet either virtually or in hybrid setting (Citizen Police Complaint Commission) as of Tuesday night.

Last week a spokesperson for Mayor Robert Garcia’s office said that City Council meetings are expected to remain in an in-person setting.

Long Beach health officer recommends virtual public meetings (again) to slow virus spread

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.