During normal times, a member of the public who is concerned about a matter coming before a governing board, such as a city council or a school board, can write an email or a letter or phone in a message about her concern. Or, if she chooses to do, she can attend the meeting when the topic is being discussed and express her concerns and thoughts directly to the board before the board takes any votes on the topic.
During a pandemic, when governing boards meet by video-conferencing, it is still required by state law that public input is allowed. Almost every city in North San Diego County chose to have its City Clerk read aloud all email and phone calls received prior to the actual meeting so that this critical public right is still observed. The City of Oceanside chose to say that all input would be received by 5 PM on the day of the meeting, and the material would be shared on the city’s website. No provision was made for actual comment about the item as the council was meeting. Our League wrote a letter to the City of Oceanside’s Mayor and City Council, pointed out this discrepancy and recommended that the City Clerk be tasked with reading all phone call messages and emails that came in prior to the meeting. And, I am pleased to report, the City of Oceanside heeded our advice and immediately revised their procedure so that same time public comment can be received by the Council through the City Clerk.
About a week later, the linked article detailing all of this was in the San Diego Union Tribune. I am delighted that the City listened to our concerns and responded promptly with a correction that meets basic levels of concern, and also happy that this important issue was publicized county- wide. Now citizens of all 18 cities will be more alert to the need to protect the important need and right to make public comment during board meetings.