Council approves healthcare for the unhoused, continues virtual comments allowed

At the City Council meeting on the evening of Monday, November 13, the city unanimously voted to approve an agreement for healthcare services for the unhoused.

Action Item A4 read, “Approval of a professional services agreement with healthcare in action for the period of December 1, 2023 to November 30, 2024, in an amount not-to-exceed $400,000 for street-based medical services for unhoused residents.”

With all five members of the City Council present, the item passed without drama.

Following that, Action Item A6 read, “Review of the current online meeting participation practice including determination of whether or not to continue allowing virtual public comments.”

This was a response to the last meeting, when white supremacists spoke via Zoom and made some vile and offensive statements. 

A lot of members of the public spoke up to say that the city should retain virtual public comment. Some people, they said, can’t attend in person because of work, others because of disabilities. Virtual public comment offers equity to those people, and increases the viability of democracy.

Member Göran Eriksson pointed out that this is an “all or nothing” issue – the council can’t tweak things or add a “kill switch,” as the First Amendment guarantees speakers the right to say whatever they want. 

Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorin said that, “Not allowing virtual comments does not eliminate the hate.”

The council voted unanimously to retain the virtual element of the meetings.

The final item of the evening, A5, saw the council vote to not include a reimagining of the public safety element in the General Plan. While some members suggested that the suggested addition is outdated because institutional isn’t as prevalent as it once was, Vice Mayor Yasmine-Imani McMorrin vehemently disagreed. 

“I’ll have to tell my black and brown friends that they won’t have to worry about institutional racism anyone,” she said. Still, the motion to not include the public safety element passed 3-2, with Mayor Albert Vera and Council Members Dan O’Brien and Göran Eriksson voting in favor, while McMorrin and Council Member Freddy Puza voted against. 

Earlier in the meeting, Action Item A1 saw Margaret Peters appointed to the Parks & Recreation committee for a partial term, while the Fiesta La Ballona committee was dissolved.