Opinion » Letters

Bring back the two-way interaction, Atascadero




From now on, when Atascaderans give public comments during Community Forum at City Council meetings, they can no longer receive the customary responses from council and staff members allowed by California’s open meeting law. Previously, under the Brown Act, in response to questions and matters raised regarding non-agenda issues, the public could expect those assembled officials may ask to clarify a question, direct people to information, briefly discuss matters raised, or direct an issue to be a subject of a staff report or agenda item at a future meeting.

Those responses are now banned.

Under a prohibition suddenly announced and unilaterally instituted by the mayor at the July 12 council meeting, none of those responses will be allowed during council meetings, turning what was once a two-way street into a one-way alley. There was no public notice about these major restrictions, nothing on any agenda, no opportunity for public comment, and no discussion, motion, vote, or explanation of the rationale for them.

The July 12 council agenda, posted on July 5, changing the description of Community Forum, shows that this prohibition was concocted at least a week prior to its announcement, completely out of public view. This is inconsistent with the Brown Act which requires that “all deliberative processes” be “open and available for public scrutiny.”

This prohibition is destructive to the ability of the public to participate in the governmental decision-making process (the purpose of the Brown Act), undermines the motivation to participate in council meetings, subverts the government’s capacity to respond to emerging issues, and prevents public servants from performing their duties.

At their Aug. 9 meeting, the council will hear from citizens demanding this prohibition be immediately declared null and void, that the full range of legally permissible responses be restored, and that any future such restrictions be considered the right way—in public, on the record, and subject to public comment.

-- David Broadwater - Atascadero

-- David Broadwater - Atascadero

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