Civically Speaking is a weekly newsletter on the latest local government news from the lens of the Long Beach Post’s City Hall reporter, who sits through so many city meetings for us.

Delays in posting presentations inhibit public participation in meetings

I’ve been working from home this week as I tend to my pup who’s recovering from surgery. Staying home to give her medicine, snacks and comfort has meant that I’ve been limited to watching meetings remotely. 

Normally that’s fine—and preferred—because the agendas are all digital and you can click through staff reports and presentations. 

However, I’ve noticed that whether these documents are posted in advance has become more of a toss-up, especially when it comes to controversial issues

Those presentations have been withheld until the presentation is actually being given, or sometimes after most of the presentation has been given, which can keep the public in the dark about what the council or other city bodies are going to talk about. 

A special study session about the city’s increasingly expensive options for the Queen Mary in 2021? That wasn’t available to the public until city officials were actively discussing it on the council floor. 

The city’s bi-weekly homelessness reports, and an update on Studebaker Road? Also not live until several minutes into the presentation. 

You get the point. 

I made a few calls to understand why this is happening. 

City Clerk Monique De La Garza explained that her team publishes the materials it has on Monday evenings for a council meeting the next week. 

There is a second update on Friday afternoons, when supplemental agenda items are added, but anything received after Friday is held until that item is called during the meeting. 

The delays are usually due to departments not turning these presentations in before the Friday deadline, and I’ve occasionally been told that presentations are being revised in the hours leading up to meetings. 

De La Garza said her office requests them in advance so they can work out any kinks that might exist in photos or videos. But just because you ask for something doesn’t mean you always get it. 

The impact of this goes beyond the inconvenience to reporters on deadline

The public is required to sign up to speak on an item before it is called. How are residents supposed to know whether they have something to say if they don’t have the information? 

And if you happen to be watching a commission or committee meeting from home, the issue is more pronounced because those meetings don’t have the same level of production as a council meeting, and viewers are left with a wide-angle shot of the council chamber, like the one I complained about earlier this week. 

Unfortunately, this is not a violation of the Brown Act, the state’s open meetings law. But it does present challenges when it comes to transparency. 

The Brown Act requires boards to give a brief description of what they’re going to talk about, but does not require all supporting documents to be posted in advance of the meeting. 

However, the fact that the city does it for some items and not for others gives the appearance that things are being withheld. I won’t speculate on whether this is intentional, but it doesn’t look good. 

I spoke with City Attorney Dawn McIntosh, who agreed that this is not the best practice if the city is seeking to encourage dialogue at its meetings. She said it was a bit concerning that people watching from home were not getting the same experience as people in the chamber.

“If we have the tech for the council meetings, why aren’t we using them for the rest of the meetings?” McIntosh said. 

That’s a good question.  


For weeks I’ve been telling you that water rates are going up; now, can I entice you with a mention that your trash bill is also about to increase? Assuming that 59,257 residents did not respond to the bill insert to protest the proposed increases, Tuesday’s special hearing is going to be mostly procedural. But it will be the first step in raising refuse rates by over $8 per month between now and October. The city says the increases are intended to help raise funds to pay for new trucks, bins and drivers to carry out a state-mandated organic recycling program that’s expected to launch next year, when a more significant increase is looming once the city actually starts collecting organic waste and shipping it to processing centers. How much is “significant”? The city hasn’t figured that out yet.


The City Council is expected to discuss an item that’s requesting enforcement options for encampments in the city. The request points to other cities that have implemented buffer zones around certain locations like schools, libraries and parks or even has barred public camping during certain hours of the day. The vote Tuesday isn’t to implement any of those options, but merely to ask city officials to look at what’s legal, and what’s working in other cities. The item could reveal some new splits on the council as it tries to respond to growing calls for more public safety when it comes to the city’s homelessness response and other residents who are pushing for softer approaches to policing how and where encampments can exist in the city. 

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.