From Tabatha Miller, Fort Bragg City Manager:
I heard a report this week that television executives are panicking because this is the time of year that they announce the new fall TV shows and start selling advertising. There is some concern that we will “run out of TV” over the summer. One substitute program I suggest is the regular and special meetings of the Fort Bragg City Council or the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors meetings. I realize that this may not be on everyone’s top-ten list, but please consider the following.
There are a lot of reasons to be angry, frustrated or even scared these days and I hear and read the emotions directed at local government and its officials. Participating in those meetings makes you a part of the process and lets you tell those folks what you think. The meetings can be viewed in real time on Channel 3 through Comcast and are also live-streamed. Past meetings are archived and available on the City’s website. In normal times, you can even be part of the live audience; attend in person and sit in uncomfortable chairs. Unlike the Rachel Ray or other talk shows, you do not have to be invited or wear bright colors to make the audience look happy (or so I have been told). Unlike Rachel, the City Council doesn’t get to pick their audience.
Public participation is important and part of the process. Agendas and staff reports are published in advance of the meetings, so that you have an opportunity to understand the issues. The responsible staff member’s email address is on the staff reports, so you can reach out ahead of time to ask questions. Even during the time of COVID-19, you can tell the City what you think of an agenda or action item.
One easy way is to submit comments by using the eComment agenda module. Visit the City’s website then select the “Agendas & Meetings” icon to see a listing of all City meetings. For upcoming meetings with eComment enabled, you will see a link on the far right-hand side of the page which allows you to comment on all agenda items. You will need to register the first time you use this feature, but you don’t need to provide your name, just an email. You can simply indicate whether you Support, Oppose or are Neutral on a particular agenda item, without leaving a comment. This is not quite like Facebook with emoji, but it offers Councilmembers information on how many people are for or against an issue. Or you can voice your opinion and the reasons why. If you need help, or just want to email a comment, contact the City Clerk at email@example.com. You can tell Councilmembers what you think of an action before it is decided.
These days, most of what the City Council is deciding is related to COVID-19, which is why your participation is so important. This is the issue most on our minds these days. Sometime Wednesday (May 20th), the Agenda for the May 26th regular City Council meeting will be published and include links to documents and staff reports.
This upcoming agenda includes a request for City Council to approve an Urgency Ordinance which allows businesses to apply for no-cost temporary Use Permits or temporary waiver of zoning requirements to facilitate business operations affected by the Shelter-in-Place Order. The goal is to help businesses survive by giving them more flexibility in how they are allowed to conduct business. Also COVID-19 related is a request to use HOME grant funds for rental assistance for low to moderate income households adversely impacted by COVID-19. Council will be asked to approve the salary adjustments resulting from the recent staff reductions and the City’s applications for CDBG Funding. The CDBG program applications focus on post- COVID recovery and include a request for $750k in Business Assistance Loan funds, $117 in Microenterprise Assistance funds, $100k to finish the Mill Site Planning, $204k for design of the Fort Bragg Fire Station Rehabilitation and $217k for Code Enforcement activities. Non COVID- 19 business includes the approval of the PG&E On-Bill Financing program that will allow the City and CV Starr Center to replace the old lighting fixtures with LED fixtures and use the monthly bill savings to finance the improvements interest free. I encourage you to get involved in your local government.