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    News

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga Seeks Public's Use of Council Chamber's Audio/Visual Equipment At Council Meetings Subject To Guidelines And On Prior Request


    (Oct. 11, 2003) -- After a Mayor Beverly O'Neill publicly prevented a LB resident from using the City Council chamber's taxpayer-paid visual display equipment to support his testimony, 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga has agendized for the Oct. 14 Council meeting a request that a Council committee develop guidelines for the public's use of that equipment on prior request.

    In a story posted on Oct. 5 by LBReport.com ("Censored @ City Council") LBReport.com reported that at the Sept. 23 Council meeting, Cal. Hts. resident and 7th district constituent Larry Mebust had prepared a power point presentation with maps to back his testimony that using LB Airport's shorter 25R runway for large jets posed safety concerns. Prior to the meeting, he'd checked with Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga's office and double-checked with the City Clerk's office, which referred him to Mayor O'Neill's office where he was told three-minute public speakers are not allowed to use the Council's visual equipment.

    The story was subsequently reported and amplified by Press-Telegram columnist Tom Hennessy in his column published Oct 10.

    LBReport.com charged that there is no City Charter or Municipal Code provision regarding use of the audiovisual equipment...and charged further that LB's prior Mayor Ernie Kell did not try to interfere with public's use of it in Council testimony.

    We also noted that more recently, then-Vice Mayor Dan Baker let members of the public use the visual equipment during a Council meeting he chaired in Mayor O'Neill absence in the interest of presenting a full record and having a fair debate on the issue. [Ed note: It was on the Scherer Park issue, not the breakwater, a factoid we mangled and have since corrected; we apologize for that goof which fortunately doesn't change the underlying point.] Councilman Baker allowed this even though he respectfully disagreed with the proponents' substantive position.

    One section of the Council-enacted Municipal Code says only that "The Mayor, or other presiding officer, shall have general direction of the Council Chamber." Mayor O'Neill's policy -- implemented without dissent from the Council until now -- has prevented the public from using the visual equipment except when the speaker is an appellant in a formal hearing. The policy gives city officials and those whose messages it approves the advantage of presenting graphics to support their positions...while members of the public with other viewpoints are correspondingly disadvantaged.

    At the Sept. 23 Council meeting, Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga asked about the policy and the Mayor accurately answered, "Actually, I made that decision. If you'd like to change it, we can certainly bring it to the Council, but it was causing some congestion and also there were some things that were brought forward that were not appropriate."

    Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga replied, "I think maybe there are some guidelines that we need to revisit that and take a look at it."

    And she has.

    In a diplomatically worded agendizing memo -- that cites the Council's publicly adopted Strategic Plan -- Councilwoman Reyes-Uranga writes:

    AGENDA ITEM: Public Use of AudioVisual Equipment at City Council Meetings

    Community involvement is one of the Guiding Principles that led to the adoption of the City of Long Beach 2010 Strategic Plan: "We commit ourselves to a continuous civic dialog to build community strength and self-sufficiency."' The 2010 Plan further reinforces our Strategy for the Future by acknowledging the strength of our community is in valuing the importance of people: "Every resident and business can have an impact on the future-your ideas and input will craft the decisions that affect your neighborhood and your city."

    The City Council meeting is where many of the decisions that affect peopleís lives are made and are in fact an example of democracy in action. I believe that the public should be provided every opportunity to participate in this decision making process. The use of audio/visual aids should enhance the publicís ability to present their concerns to the City Council. The City Council should adopt guidelines for the appropriate use of such equipment for use by the public upon prior request. Suggested Action: Refer to Housing and Neighborhoods Committee for adoption of recommendations to City Council regarding public use of audiolvisual equipment at City Council meetings.


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