Beginning with the City Council meeting held Tuesday, November 21, public comment under Agenda Items 4 and 9—oral communications, non-agenda—will be allowed only from in-person attendees in Council Chambers at City Hall. Remote public comment will continue to be permitted for all other agenda items, including those on the Consent Calendar and Regular Agenda.
The change comes after several online speakers made anti-Semitic remarks during the November 7 Council meeting. After expressing shock at the first speaker, Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft denounced the hateful speech.
“I want to make it clear that as the Mayor of this City, and on behalf of Council and City staff, the comments you just heard do not comport at all with the values that we hold in Alameda, and we do not stand for anti-Semitism or any discrimination against any other people,” said Ashcraft.
Ashcraft interrupted a second speaker, but the third speaker’s rapid-fire statements—much like the first speaker—came near the end of his allotted two-minute timeframe, which hampered Council’s ability to cut him off.
Afterwards, City Attorney Yibin Shen reminded members of the public that general public comment should address topics “that are within the Council’s general jurisdiction, which is broad, but generally does not include international law.”
According to a statement on the City’s website, Alameda “will follow the lead of several other Bay Area cities” in limiting remote public comment. The change reflects the City’s “continuing efforts to create a community where Everyone belongs.”
However, Shelby, a speaker during the November 21 Council meeting, expressed disappointment that little notice was given for the change. “The public didn’t have any participation in it, and it wasn’t held in open session—there was no vote. It’s a way that excludes the public even more.”