By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – For Josh Chapman, it was his first in-person meeting. For Mayor Gloria Partida, the first in-person meeting that she presided over as mayor. Council returned to in-person meetings for the first time since March of 2020.
The new set up meant a new format for public comments—which, this being Davis, meant a number of people called in to public comment to complain about the set up. The chief complaint focused around the fact that call-in public comment will only be taken from noon to four on the day of. Several commenters ironically called in to complain this was too restrictive.
In addition, anyone wanting to come down to council to make an in-person public comment, can do that as well.
Several people also called in to note that, at the last meeting, council cut off public comment on the Yolo County Animal Services issue—in the interest of time.
One commenter noted, “I called in two weeks ago to make a comment about Yolo County Animal Services. And it didn’t seem that all the comments got played. I know many other people who called in and their comments were not played. I feel like it’s really important that all the comments be played because this is for the public to hear not just for the city council to hear. And these are really important issues related to the animal shelter.”
Charlene Henwood said, “My comment is that I just noticed the council has restricted the time that people can call in public comments. I guess limiting the comments to two minutes from three minutes was still allowing too many people to have a say, what kind of authoritarian state are you trying to implement? You get sued if you disagree with the council, and now people have to call in during their work hours to voice their opinion. Too pesky governing people with ideas and suggestions.”
Eileen Samitz added that “my concern and objection is to the new policy of public comment.”
She said, “It is outrageous that the council is not playing all of the remote public comment recordings, during the meeting. This happened at the last meeting and no one was expecting this. I mean the public never got the opportunity to hear all the public comments regarding the animal control services issue.”
She said that “even though the council apparently is open for public comment in person, there’s a pandemic on and a new surge. So people are very concerned about coming down.”
Another commenter expressed concern about the reduced time for accepting public comments.
“As many of us Davis citizens are still at work or maybe commuting during that time period, it’s really important to have public comments be offered at some particular point back in the chamber, so that the citizens of this town can tell you in person, what the issues that are affecting them really are.
“I strongly object to having yet, again, another barrier to democracy basically put up in front of us,” she said noting another barrier is “having a sitting city council member, being supported by the developers of a major building project in Davis, sue the people who are in opposition to the project. Real Trump stuff going on here. So never thought I’d see the day when a sitting council member uses deep pockets of a developer to stifle (and) squash members of the community who are quite frankly doing their civic duty to question the merits of a huge building project in their town. But here we are, Trump world has officially come to Davis.”
In person, Connor Gorman noted that at the last meeting, he was happy that Alan Hirsch’s appeal on Olive Drive “was able to be heard on equal footing as the project developer in terms of presentation time, and also being able to answer questions throughout the hearing.”
But he expressed concern at the last meeting’s process for public comment on the animal shelter issue.
He explained, “[L]ike some of the recorded public comments, I was a bit surprised at the last meeting when some of the public comments were cut off for one of the items. And I am wondering when and how that decision was made. And I do think that those comments should have been played.”
He continued, “And then similarly, I was also surprised when I heard about the 12 to 4 pm rule for this meeting. I think it’s very important to have hybrid options. And I’m very glad that the council is allowing hybrid comments, but I do think extending that period, at least a bit, at least until like six or seven would be important.”
Mayor Partida responding to the concerns noted that “we’re getting back to in person hearings and trying to figure out the best way to do this, that is fair for everyone. There are certain things that we are working out. We are trying to choose a window that will make it logistically easy for us to be able to hold these meetings in person and also get the comments that are recorded to the people that need to play them back. So there are a lot of moving parts that go into, trying to get these, these meetings to, to run the way that is fair to the public.”
She noted that last week, they had a very full agenda with some items that had to be heard that night.
“There are times when we have to make some decisions about what is going to be heard,” she said, noting there was an item that they had to pull off the meeting because of the length of the meeting.