Letter: Bring back Zoom at City Council meetings

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At the May 14 City Council meeting, the city attorney stated that she didn’t think there was any way to have a Zoom meeting that could protect us from being zoomed in and protect free speech. A number of us decided to do some research. We contacted friends who live in nearby cities, and we discovered there is legal protection.

On Aug. 22, 2022, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1100 (S.B. 1100) into law, adding California Government Code section 54957.95. Under this new section, a presiding member of a legislative body is authorized to remove or cause the removal of individuals who disrupt open meetings. The bill also identifies the types of behaviors that may be characterized as “disrupting” under the statute without fear of legal action.

It was also stated that there is no technological method to absolutely guarantee a Zoom bomb call will not happen again. True, however Zoom has built-in tools that can help prevent Zoom bombings from occurring, and they’re all remarkably easy to enable when creating a new meeting. These steps won’t completely eliminate the possibility of Zoom bombing, but they ensure the host has control over who is allowed to participate in their meeting.

Many neighboring cities allow Zoom public comments; Los Angeles, Irvine, Costa Mesa and San Juan Capistrano are just a few. Most have adopted a new process. Residents are asked to fill out a speaker card and submit it before the meeting. Only residents who have returned a speaker card in person or online are allowed to speak via Zoom about an item or public comment.

If our city adopts the new technology and participation processes, Laguna Beach need not fear legal action. We can join the dozens of cities in California that allow residents to comment safely via Zoom.

The new participation process will go a long way toward protecting the city! If the council directs staff to use these protective measures, residents can once again participate in all meetings on Zoom.

Anne Caenn, President, Village Laguna

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I have firsthand experience speaking before city council members. Last year, when Anne Caenn’s “Village Laguna” supported the appeal to the council to prevent the demolition of our century-old rotting cottage, my wife and I drove two hours to Laguna and waited four hours to address the council.

    During my speech, I sensed compassion and understanding from some members. Speaking before them was nerve-wracking, but anyone passionate about their cause should find no issue speaking in person.

    Permitting Zoom participation in city council meetings only emboldens individuals like Caenn to voice proposals and grievances they might otherwise find too shameful to express in person.

  2. Really, Bryan? If I’m reading you right, you’d rather shut out all phoned-in discussion because you’re worried about some people discussing things that you might find “shameful”?!

    The very point of Zoom calls is to embolden and enable the public to articulate matters that are important and register public sentiment. What’s shameful to you may be of utmost importance to others.

    And as you intimate, many are not able to make the drive to City Hall, and many more people with great ideas are extremely intimidated about speaking in a public forum.

    The idea of democracy is to openly share information and points of view – not shut people up.

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