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PALMDALE — The City Council, on Wednesday, approved a resolution allowing for continuing remote participation in meetings, in accordance with rules established during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 4-0 decision, with Mayor Steve Hofbauer absent, came with little Council discussion and no response from members of the public, unlike the Nov. 3 meeting, when the matter was first presented as a resolution extending the state of emergency declaration to allow for remote participation.

“Personally, this is a very important item,” Mayor Pro Tem Laura Bettencourt said in introducing the resolution. “I want to continue to support my community and do all that I can for the Council. Right now, because of my medical conditions, I’m very limited in what I can do.”

Bettencourt, who is battling cancer, has been attending meetings via Zoom.

“It would be very helpful to a lot of people, I think, to continue to do these remotely,” she said.

City Attorney Christopher Beck called the item “a perfunctory matter” to allow the Council to continue with the remote participation, by members of the Council and the public, and that it must be renewed every 30 days.  

At the Nov. 3 meeting, staff recommended approval of a resolution extending the local emergency declaration, originally made in March 2020 and extended several times since then, in order to continue to allow remote participation in public meetings under rules established during the pandemic. It also maintains the city’s eligibility for potentially millions of dollars in federal funding.

“I think that the presentation that was made last time was not the best presentation that could’ve been made on this issue,” Councilmember Richard Loa said, Wednesday. “I think it brought forth a lot of concern in the community. What was important about it was to allow the community and to allow Ms. Bettencourt to participate in these meetings remotely.”

“Unfortunately, I think the staff did not provide adequate information so that the community could understand this up front,” he said. “I think that was a sorry spectacle.”

Loa emphasized that he had no issues with the numerous members of the public who spoke against extending the emergency declaration, but he did take issue with the staff presentation.

“It needlessly aroused concern that did not have to happen,” he said.

On Nov. 3, the Council originally voted 2-2 to approve the emergency declaration resolution, with Mayor Steve Hofbauer and Councilmember Austin Bishop voting against the extension. Bettencourt was absent, due to her illness, according to Hofbauer.

Because the vote was tied, the motion failed.

Following the vote, which took place shortly before 11 p.m. and after nearly 90 minutes of public comment and discussion, the Council took a brief break, while most of the audience in the packed Council Chambers left.

When the Council returned to open session, Hofbauer announced that the Zoom connection that was broadcasting the meeting and that allows members of the public to comment had cut off prior to the emergency declaration vote. The online streaming through the city’s website was not interrupted.

At that time, Beck explained that, according to the state law that governs how public meetings may be conducted electronically under the COVID emergency provisions, if that remote connection — in this case, Zoom — is lost, then the meeting is considered suspended and any actions taken invalidated.

Hofbauer made the motion, again, to approve an extension of the emergency declaration. This time, however, no other Council member seconded the motion, so it failed, without a vote. (Councilmember Juan Carrillo seconded the motion in the original vote.)  

With that, no Council vote in the issue was on the record.

(1) comment

Jimzan 2.0

Keep beating the CoVid dead horse Palmdale...and don't forget to lol

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