Manteca Councilman-Elect Charlie Halford wants to listen to constituents in real time when he — and his fellow council colleagues — conduct the people’s business at council meetings.
Halford said people need to be able to make their views known after staff presentations, which are often are not included in agenda packets, are made to the council.
“The staff presentations often bring up points or (prompt) questions you wouldn’t get from reading an agenda item,” Halford said.
Under the system the city has now in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens must make comments by 4 p.m. the day of the meeting and do so either by email, hand delivered note, mailed comments or now by eComment via the city’s website.
Halford believes that is not effective communication.
What he would like to see is not just a system that was in place before the pandemic that people could comment in real time at the appropriate times when they could attend meetings in person, but one that would allow even more robust public participation going forward.
Halford believes with the investment the city has made in technology and their efforts to secure more robust Internet providers that people should be able to comment in real time via Zoom.
Halford, who will take the oath of office on Dec. 8 along with Gary Singh who was returned for a second term, points to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s virtual press conferences as a model. When the point comes for various reporters to ask questions, it is done remotely and in real time.
“You can do the same thing with citizens wanting to comment,” Halford said. “You just need somebody to coordinate who can speak.”
The person speaking — if they are on Zoom that has their face being shown — could also be seen by those watching a livestream version of the meeting on the city’s website or via Comcast Channel 97.
And when pandemic restrictions are lifted, Halford believes such real time remote comments should be allowed in addition to in-person comments or those emailed, written, or submitted via eComment.
That way someone with limited transportation, who may be handicapped, or have young children that make it difficult to attend a meeting in person can participate in council meetings remotely by commenting on items via Zoom.
It would also address limitations that the council meetings sometime have when they are a number of people that want to address hot button issues.
It also dovetails into the current city management team’s commitment to more open communication and transparency.
While the public hasn’t been able to attend a council meeting in-person since March and may not be able to so for months to come, such a system would address a complaint previous councils have heard — and made — about how Manteca as a commute town has limited citizen participation in council meetings.
That is because if an item that is important to someone comes up after 9 p.m., and they have to be up and on the road to a job in the Bay Area by 4 p.m., they either do not attend the meetings or else they get up and leave before the council gets to the item they are interested in.
It also would allow those with young children to participate without having to bring them to the council meeting.
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