Let’s stand up for democracy and public participation in Pasadena!

25 Nov

This is a letter I am sending to the City Council regarding its decision to stop meeting via Zoom and have only in person meeting. They chose to ignore a much more democratic option, hybrid meeting, citing cost as a factor. The cost is $250,000/yr for hybrid Council meetings. To put that into perspective, that’s how much a mayoral campaign now costs in our city.

I urge everyone who cares about democracy to write to our City Council letting them know you want hybrid meetings for the reasons I describe in this letter. You can contact our Council at

vgordo@cityofpasadena.net,jerivas@cityofpasadena.net,

awilson@cityofpasadena.net,thampton@cityofpasadena.net,

smadison@cityofpasadena.net,fwilliams@cityofpasadena.net,

gmasuda@cityofpasadena.net,correspondence@cityofpasadena.net

Dear Mayor Gordo and City Council members,

Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining. As Councilmember Hampton pointed out in Monday’s City Council meeting,  one of the benefits of the COVID epidemic has been increased participation by the public in city council meetings due to Zoom meeting. Hampton also pointed out  that “the level of engagement is tremendous now compared to what it used to be. People who are at home taking care of their families can’t attend live meetings. We should allow our residents to be able to make public comments online as well as in person. This is our work to listen to what our people have to say.”

The staff report doesn’t provide data to support’s Hampton’s claim and I strongly urge the Council to seek that data so it can compare public participation before and after Zoom meetings. As someone who has regularly attended Council meetings for the last ten years, I agree with Hampton that public participation has increased dramatically since COVID. And that’s a win for democracy in our city.

Others on the Council seem to agree:

Wilson pointed out that zoom meetings make it easier for people with disabilities to participate. Madison pointed out that the “Zoom methodology is a positive development.” Jess Rivas also expressed approval for hybrid meetings.

Despite these comments, the Council went along with the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendation to go back to the status quo.  

I believe we need to move forward into the future and incorporate best practices such as Zoom meetings into our democratic process here in Pasadena.

Clearly, written comments aren’t taken as seriously as spoken comments. That’s why it’s important to give as many residents as possible a chance to speak. As Hampton noted, it’s the Council job to listen to constituents.

I urge the Council to reconsider its decision and use a hybrid approach for Council meetings and for Planning Commission meetings, where public engagement via Zoom has been robust. This would strengthen the democratic process in our city.

Respectfully,

Anthony Manousos

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