On June 23, The City Council's "Public Safety Committee" Is Poised To Violate Governor's Order And State Law And Let City Staff Manipulate Media Coverage At The ONLY City Council Proceeding Agendized To Date On LB Looting/Rioting, Police Bias/Use of force And Police Misconduct. Here's What To Do About This.
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|(June 21, 2020) -- On March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-29-20 letting legislative bodies (like City Councils) waive certain requirements of the Brown (open meetings) Act if the legislative body "allows members of the public to observe and address the meeting telephonically or otherwise electronically." (emphasis added.)
On June 23 at 2:30 p.m., the City Council's three member "Public Safety Committee" (Price, Supernaw, Austin) is preparing to violate the Governor's order and its underlying state statute (the Brown open meetings Act) conducting its meeting without allowing any audible public testimony.
For the record, it's the only agendized Council proceeding scheduled to date to deal with May 31-June 1 looting/lawlessness. The agenda also includes longer standing issues of police bias/use of force and police misconduct.
The Committee's June 23 agenda offers no opportunity for the public to communicate telephonically or by any means audible to the public. It limits the public to sending written materials via "E-comment" or email.(inaudible in real time and invisible until days after the meeting.)
Committee chair Price and her Committee colleagues can fix this. They can instruct the City Clerk to ensure telephonic public testimony at their June 23 Committee meeting (the same system belatedly implemented for full Council meetings on June 16.)
Under LB's City Charter, the City Clerk answers to the City Council, not the City Manager and not the Mayor. If the City Clerk offers excuses for not enabling public testimony on June 23, the Committee should swiftly announce (prior to their meeting) that the public's emailed testimony will be read aloud at the Committee meeting. If the City Clerk declines to do so, the Committee members -- each of them -- should do so.
One way or the other, the public's testimony on those agenda items can and should be audibly heard at that June 23 Committee meeting.
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This is especially important because city staff is simultaneously applying a commonly used media manipulation technique in connection with the June 23 Committee meeting. We explain it below.
None of the agenda items include written materials (memos or PPT slides.) This prevents the press from communicating staff's position to the public, effectively preventing the public from learning and preparing focused responses to staff's contentions. It's designed to turn what should be a thoughtful legislative Committee meeting into an echo chamber for staff's position. .
At the Committee meeting, staff offers its report. It's sometimes a memo, sometimes PPT slides, sometimes entirely oral. Regardless, neither the public -- nor the Committee members -- have had a chance to learn staff's contentions beforehand. (LBREPORT.com routinely asks for written materials provided to Committee members; staff routinely claims none were provided.) Committee members listen to staff and thank staff for the report. Without the opportunity to learn staff's contentions before the Committee meeting, there's little likelihood of focused public testimony challenging staff's contentions at the Committee meeting. That invites some media outlets to lazily repeat what staff says as unchallenged newsworthy facts. Pretty slick, huh? .
There's not much the public can do about the media manipulation (beyond spotting it when it occurs) but Committee members could put a stop to it immediately. Committee chairs could inform staff that from now on, if staff fails to provide the public with basic usinesslike written materials (memo or PPT) accompanying Committee agenda items, they won't be heard. Simple as that.
As for the the lack of audible public testimony, LBREPORT.com suggests our readers do the following. Cut and paste the text below (adapt it as you wish) and put it your favored social network pages (especially NextDoor.) Invite your friends and neighbors to do likewise. Email it your Councilmember and the Mayor:
On June 23, the City Council's Public Safety Committee (Price, Supernaw, Austin) will meet to consider agendized items on the May 31-June 1 looting/lawlessness, police bias/use of force and prosecuting police misconduct) without allowing audible public testimony
LBREPORT.com plans to follow this story as it develops.
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