Pilot program will run through end of year
By Dolores Quintana
At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on June 22, Councilmembers approved new rules to aid in streamlining meetings and the process for public comment. These new rules take the form of a pilot program that will run through the end of the year. This was necessary because many meetings lasted until the wee hours of the morning making it difficult for council members with families and businesses to run and for the meetings to be accessible to the public.
This new pilot program is in line with the City Council’s new direction to their staff to improve meeting management and make it possible for the public to comment remotely. These changes will take effect on Tuesday, June 28 during the next City Council meeting.
Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said, in a press release statement, “By making these changes, my hope is that City Council meetings become more efficient while still allowing the community to meaningfully participate and have their voices heard. We all have busy lives and personal obligations. Allowing remote public comment at Board and Commission meetings makes participating easier for everyone in our community.”
The City Council has now approved the following actions going forward:
- Change the order for hearing public comment and retain the time donation to another speaker policy for in-person public comment, upon implementation of hybrid meetings.
- Boards and Commissions will continue to meet remotely until the end of the calendar year 2022, at which time Council will revisit.
- Implement hybrid City Council meetings when City resources allow for the funding of necessary facility upgrades and staffing needs. At the May 24 City Council meeting, staff presented options for implementing hybrid meetings with a call-in option. Based on the discussion, staff came back at the June 21 meeting with a proposal to start hybrid meetings at the first regular meeting in September. Due to limited resources, the City is currently unable to adequately support hybrid meetings. Staff will return at the mid-year budget to consider options to fund the necessary facility upgrades and staffing needs to fulfill the request for hybrid meetings.
These are the approved changes to the City Council’s meeting format:
- Set a fixed public meeting start time for regular meetings of 7 p.m., with 7 p.m. being the set time to end Closed Session.
- As a pilot through December 31, 2022, Public Input on non-agenda items will be heard at the beginning of a meeting; as well as consolidation of the following public comment at the beginning of the meeting: special items, closed session, and Consent Calendar. All remaining public comment on agenda items, except public hearings, will be heard after Council returns from closed session. Public comment for public hearings (items that require public notice such as appeals, zoning changes and other items required by law) will be heard when the items are called.
- Move proclamations and other special items ahead of Closed Session.
- Move the deadline for Councilmember Discussion Items (13 Items) to noon on Monday, eight days ahead of the Council meeting.
- Establish quarterly updates from Council ad hoc committees.
If you would like to access additional information about these policy changes, go to santamonica.gov, call 311, or email email@example.com