I was appalled when I read in The Californian “Public participation in question: some local school boards end remote access to meetings,” Oct. 16. Melissa Brown, an employee at a local school, made several important points about school districts ending their Zoom meetings in favor of in-person meetings. She noted that public participation was the highest it had ever been when there were Zoom meetings.
She asked: “Why would we stop using Zoom to communicate the most important decisions made in our district to those unable to attend in person?” David Snyder, the executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, was quoted saying “providing remote access to the public is the right thing to do.”
It is obvious to me that Zoom meetings are critically important in allowing public input for those with disabilities, transportation issues, or lack of child care. Also, evening meetings are impossible for those who can’t drive at night. I think local government has an important obligation to encourage the public to be engaged in local decisions. We should be expanding participation, not limiting it!
I encountered the same issue of public access with the Parks and Recreation Commission meetings. For the months that we had remote access, there were upward of 20 people participating in lively discussions. Now that they decided to meet in person, there are four to five people attending. I have brought this up more than once that it sends an unfortunate message that public input is not important or valued.
— Carol Lair, Bakersfield