At a regular West Hollywood city council meeting on Monday, May 3, 2021, council member John D’Amico suggested it is time for city council meetings to take place in person at the West Hollywood City Chambers. He asked the city manager Paul Arevalo for a staff report on the implementation of in-person city council meetings with some virtual elements.
In the council member comments portion of the meeting, D’Amico addressed the previous meeting on April 19, which is locked in at 7 hours, 16 minutes, and 27 seconds on its WeHoTV Youtube channel. D’Amico was criticized for leaving the meeting a little before midnight while the meeting was still taking place. He said he could only stay at that meeting until 11p.m., but stayed past that hour. He apologized for offending anyone for leaving, but he said he needed to set boundaries around the schedule because he has hundreds of millions of dollars in responsibilities at his day job, which he said go beyond the four corners of a video screen for a West Hollywood City Council Meeting.
“Last council meeting was quite long,” He said. “I left early and I asked the City Manager to work on a set of options making our meetings last maybe no longer than five hours from six to eleven for our many decades-long-standing agendas. That includes perhaps we can institute an open meeting study session so the council members could ask staff questions about items on the agendas beforehand maybe before the 5 o’clock hour or after the 6 o’clock hour. Also we can add an additional meeting every month for time given to presentations, or Paul once suggested a few years ago, having a separate presentations night in which we gather all the presentations together and have a big celebration of people coming to celebrate each other’s hard work… I think there is a case to be made that making policy at 1 o’clock in the morning maybe doesn’t allow much interaction with what we need.”
D’Amico also asked for an updated staff report regarding a plan for moving meetings back to the council chambers so the city can continue virtual participation in combination with in-person participation with the hopes they will be shorter. He said several community members like calling in their comments without having to attend a meeting in person.
D’Amico did not have to wait too long to get a response from staff. In his comments, City Manager Paul Arevalo answered questions regarding a projected time for in-person city council meetings at the council chambers.
“The question for in-person meetings or at least in-person meetings for key staff and council members, we have a repopulation plan for the city effective June 1st,” said Arevalo. “We’re going to start rotating back in all of the management team into the building. In July we’re going to start bringing back employees. We’re going to continue a hybrid program. It’s going to be on a two-phase approach. One is getting people back in the building on a part-time basis and eventually once the emergency orders are lifted, we’re still going to continue with a hybrid model that allows for some employees to maintain a flexible telecommuting schedule. It’s just been productive and it’s also good for the environment. We’re targeting the July 19th as the first meeting back in the council chambers and that will be the council members and city clerk and key staff, and that’s as of now. In terms of our rollout and kind of going back to the new normal, that’s the process that we have in place.”
Based on the city manager’s comments, it appears it will be much longer than July 19th for council meetings to be fully open to a general in-person audience.