If there’s one thing city hall hates more than having to do their job, it’s having to see their constituents while doing it.
If there’s one thing city hall hates more than having to do their job, it’s having to see their constituents while doing it. To commemorate City Council giving themselves the power to ban citizens from meetings, here’s a list of the top 10 annoying things Los Angeles City Council does to drive down civic engagement and ensure no one comes to their meetings:
1. Cancel them!
Did you spend weeks rallying your base to come downtown and speak out against one of the ten million shitty ordinances that get proposed every month? Did you take off work or get a baby sitter because it’s really important for you to be able to come to a meeting and give public comment on an issue close to you? Well tough shit you fucking IDIOT!!! Meeting is cancelled, preferably the day before.
2. Schedule them early in the morning
There’s nothing like an 8:30am meeting to slip a controversial item past the public with little to no oversight (like the public safety committee did with the Olympics). It’s a pain enough for organizers to make it to early meetings, and this makes it especially hard for the general public to attend, and decreases the chances of media making it to cover the event. This is on top of only holding meetings during work days/hours when almost no one can come anyway. Again, it is best if this scheduling change is done at the last minute.
3. Shutting down public comments in full council meetings
Much like with time rescheduling, this is also a popular tactic with items they expect push-back on. If an item is heard in a committee (which are always under attended) and an opportunity is given to make public comment there, then under the brown act they do not have to allow comment on it in the full council meeting. Quite often, people will show up to council meetings expecting to be able to speak on an item, not realizing it has already been heard in committee. The council doesn’t HAVE to disallow a second round of comments, but almost always chooses to it they want to give off the impression there is no pubic outcry against it.
City council will also choose not to let someone speak on a second item if they’ve already given comment on another, even if no one else is signed up, or if a large number of people have signed up to comment. In the case of the latter, a “sampling” of speakers are chosen to save time, and certain individuals are often cherry picked regardless of when they signed up to speak.
4. Reduce the amount of time you have to speak
Up until a couple years ago, the time allotted for public comment was two minutes. This was already an extremely brief amount of time that made it hard for residents to fit a coherent argument into, and so was reduced to ONE minute. Basically by the time you’re done introducing yourself and where you stand on an issue, you’re already at 30 seconds.
5. Keeping speakers “on topic”
Part of the changes with the above item was granting council members the ability to interrupt you or cut your mic completely if you have been deemed to be “off topic” on the current agenda item. This is used at nearly every meeting, including when the father of Eric Rivera was speaking about his son who was murdered by LAPD
6. Change the room number of the meeting at the last minute
Did you manage the catch the time change? Well just in case you did, they may just change the room or floor number on you to delay you even further. Bear in mind if you’re only a couple minutes early and the item you’re there for is the first on the agenda, showing up to the wrong room will buy city council enough time to make sure you don’t get signed up to speak.
7. Banning signs and large items from the building
Blocking an audience member’s view is the cardinal sin of council meetings, so items like signs are not allowed in meetings. Enforcement on this is also used to keep people from getting decent photographs/video of speakers, even at times when no one is behind the photographer. Disallowing bulky items from the building also effectively prevents most homeless people from coming to meetings, as they have no where to store their belongings. This was felt hard especially during the Skid Row neighborhood council election when City Hall was used as a pop-up polling location.
8. Don’t have any parking!
And don’t validate anyone who paid to park in the nearby lots.
9. Moving an item to the END of the agenda to make everyone wait
Activists routinely have to sit through hours of city council patting themselves on the back, handing out certificates of appreciation to businesses that donate to their campaigns, and discussing rather mundane business before they finally get to the big agenda item everyone came for. At this point, the bulk of the crowd has often left, as have any organizers that had a limited window to speak on an item.
10. Outright banning people from attending
The most recent ordinance passed bans citizens from attending future meetings if they exhibit behavior deemed to be “disruptive”. The number of days a ban lasts stacks with each subsequent disruption if one occurs in the probationary period. What constitutes a disruption? No one knows, but it will inevitably be weaponized against progressive activists and especially people of color. Every major community organization in LA came to city hall FOUR WEEKS IN A ROW to speak out against this ordinance. Even the ACLU thought it was stupid. The vote was delayed each week to try and thin out the number of dissidents.