On Monday, the Pittsburg City Council agreed to continue hosting their meetings remotely through the month of November.
The move came after City Manager Garrett Evans, said the council must pass a resolution within 30-days under terms of Assembly Bill 361.
Last month, the council adopted AB 361 for October which requires the council to list on Agenda how they can attend and comment on meetings, provide opportunity to comment in advance and during the meeting, allow time to register and comment on items during a meeting, if technical disruption, the meeting cannot continue, voting on roll call, as necessary
Evans highlighted that exception of the City of Oakley, who is meeting in person, only City of Brentwood and City of Walnut Creek have hybrid options of council and staff with masks meet while the public is via Zoom. Every other city in the county is remote.
Evans shared for indoor mask mandates to be removed, the county must be in the “moderate tier” yellow for at least three consecutive weeks—Contra Costa County is currently in the orange tier. There must also be fewer than 75 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county—the county currently has 59. The third criteria is an “Or” where 80% of the Contra Costa County population must be fully vaccinated—the county is at 73%–or 8 weeks after FDA/CDC/Western States Emergency Use Authorization for COVID-19 vaccine for 5-11 year olds.
Evans said the recommendation was to continue remote public meetings through the month of November.
Mayor Merl Craft agreed with Councilmember Shanelle Scales-Preston suggesting they follow the county guidelines versus creating their own. Craft then made the motion to continue for 30-days.
Council Member Jelani Killings stated he was open to going back to in-person meetings and understood the reservations before, but now there is conflicting policy on use of city council chambers.
“Council chambers can be used for one instance, but not the city business and I don’t find that to be consistent,” said Killings. “I would like us to suspend this 30-days and go back to in person because it seems like council chambers can be used for in person gatherings and there was not any push-back on that.”
Killings was referring to the recent ceremony on Oct. 28 at the Pittsburg City Council Chambers where 25 immigrants from 13-nations became US citizens. During that ceremony, the keynote speaker was Mayor Craft and opening remarks by Councilwoman Shanelle Scales-Preston.
“I don’t see how we can go from having in person gatherings in the council chambers to then saying no we can’t conduct in person meetings,” said Killings who urged the city manager to bring back metrics for in-person so its no longer subjective. “I am still open to going to in person, but if we are not there as a council, I really would like to have those objective standards that we agree to that says okay this is now the reason why we can go back to in person meetings. It also transparent to the public for the reasons. I’ve had people reach out saying that want to address us face-to-face at meetings and have expressed frustrations not being able to do that.”
The council then voted 3-1 to continue remote meetings with Killings dissenting.