During the Feb. 16 Barstow City Council meeting, which was held via Zoom, 18 public comments went unheard by those watching online when they were not read into the record.
City Attorney Matthew Summers announced on Jan. 19 — when 29 public comments went unheard — that comments would not be read aloud into the record during meetings, saying state law does not require emailed public comments to be read aloud.
“Rather, the requirement is that the emails be provided to the Council and that has been done,” said Summers, who did not cite the referenced state law.
City spokesperson Amanda Hernandez told the Daily Press on Jan. 26 that City Clerk Andi Flores and Summers “developed an adjusted public comment protocol, as an interim measure to avoid any appearance of bias or confusion about who was making comments when the Clerk was simply reading comments from the public…”
On Feb. 4, in response to a follow-up inquiry about the referenced state law, Hernandez said the decision complies with the Brown Act’s requirements, as adjusted by Gov. Gavin Newsom via executive orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In neighboring Victorville, spokesperson Sue Jones said recently that city officials there made a decision similar to Barstow’s.
“Our City Clerk used to read emailed public comments during our City Council Meetings. As of this past Tuesday, Feb. 2; emailed public comments are now forwarded to City Council Members,” Jones said by email. “This change was made to streamline our Council Meetings. Plus, it is somewhat awkward to have someone else’s words being spoken by our Clerk.”
There exists a present difference between the two cities’ council meetings, though. In Victorville, the public can directly address the City Council during virtual meetings. The same cannot be said for Barstow, which offers watch-only meetings.
Hernandez said the city is working to “upgrade its technological systems to allow the public to participate directly in the Zoom system.”
The city is using federal CARES Act funds to pay for the upgrades, but Hernandez said Barstow’s IT department expects “at least another month for upgrades.”
Until then, Summers said all public comments are available for review by emailing the city clerk.
Or you can read them here. In an effort to maintain transparency in the city of Barstow, the Daily Press is publishing all 18 public comments that were not read aloud during the Feb. 1 City Council meeting.
A note to readers: The comments appear verbatim, including grammatical and spelling errors.
Public comment No. 1
Mayor Paul Anthony Courtney,
CLOSED SESSION: agenda 1
CLOSED SESSION, Comment make this a part of the record…