For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, members of the public will soon have the chance to make their voices heard in real time at Long Beach City Council meetings.

The City Council will start hearing live public comment by phone starting with its June 16 meeting, the city clerk announced Monday. Since mid-March, only written comments have been accepted by the city, and those comments have not been read nor discussed during meetings.

Up to 20 public speakers may sign up to make live comments regarding agenda items during the meeting. If less than 10 commenters sign up, each will be allowed to speak for up to 3 minutes. If 10 or more people sign up, comments will be limited to 90 seconds.

Additionally, up to 10 people will be allowed to comment on non-agenda items for up to 3 minutes each.

The announcement comes after over a week of protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police—something that’s sparked heated public comment in other cities.

Last week, the Los Angeles Police Commission hosted its meeting on the video-conferencing app Zoom, allowing over 500 residents to watch and many to comment live, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. The LAPD and Chief Michel Moore faced backlash and calls for resignation for the handling of protests during the meeting from around 80 commenters. Hundreds were unable to speak.

However, live public comment remains unavailable for the Long Beach City Council’s June 9 meeting, which will feature multiple controversial items, including a request for a report on the city’s Citizen Police Complaint Commission, which has been at the center of police reform discussions by protesters over the last week.

Other items on the June 9 agenda related to the civil unrest of the last week include:

  • Requesting the city manager to publicly condemn the “murder of George Floyd” and “acknowledge the existence and longstanding impacts of systemic racism” in Long Beach and nationwide.
  • Requesting the city manager to conduct a formal listening process to “hear accounts and experiences of racial injustice, inequality or harm” from the community, evaluate the feedback with stakeholders and present the council with policy, budgetary, charter and programmatic reform ideas for consideration.
  • Requesting staff to identify funds and other opportunities to assist business owners whose properties were vandalized and/or looted.
  • Reviewing the need for continuing the local emergency proclamation, which has allowed city leaders to impose curfews.

According to the city announcement, “The city council will continue to adjust and expand public access in the weeks ahead and continue to follow the governor’s recommended public meeting guidelines.”

Information about the sign-up process for live phone comments will be posted on the city clerk website Friday.

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Brandon Richardson

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.