Civics During COVID-19

  • Posted on 2 July 2020
  • By Chapter Communications Committee
How can you still impact environmental issues and exercise civic responsibilities
One impact of COVID19 and social distancing is that many political and civic forums formerly open to the public are now closed to physical presence.  If you ever attended a city council meeting when an agenda item included something of extraordinary interest or controversial topic, then you would understand the power of large groups in physical attendance. Although an online presence can be impactful, it is harder to gain the palpable impact of long lines of people waiting for their minute at the mic.
COVID19 makes your voice ever more important, and you should be prepared to make it known, especially related to issues and agenda items that Sierra Club volunteers have spent hours or even years preparing for.
How to contribute:
Look for an announcement by Sierra Club volunteers related to a pending government meeting that allows public comments such as city council meetings, city staff workshops, agency meetings, and commission meetings.  Two examples below are the City Council for Santa Monica and for Newport Beach.
Your options usually include 1) sending an email in advance or 2) calling during the time the agenda item is being considered.
READ THE RULES CAREFULLY.  As you can see from the two examples below, written comments must be submitted by email at a specific time.  Verbal comments require you to call a specific phone number and type a code for a specific agenda item – some meetings use a specific number for each agenda item.  If you get a busy signal, you need to continue to dial in until you get into the comment queue. Some systems can only hold a limited number of people in a queue.  Most commissions and councils will not close a line until all people are heard related to the issue on the agenda.
If speaking on the phone, please write out your comments in advance and practice in the mirror. 60 seconds does not seem like a great deal of time, but it is plenty of time to clearly communicate a point of view.
If you learn about agenda items through the Sierra Club, please contact the leader and investigate if your time can be donated to a Sierra Club leader to allow a longer presentation. COVID19 has made this a fluid process, so look for our announcements. The best place to look is our list of active ADDUP campaigns at the bottom of our home page or one of these committees
Remote Public Comment (Effective May 5, 2020 until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted)
In lieu of attending the meeting, the public is strongly encouraged to submit their written correspondence and written public comment on agenda items via email to Written public comment submitted before 2:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting will be available for online viewing. Additionally, public comment can be made by phone at (310) 458-8423. Remarks from the public are limited to a total of 6 minutes per City Council meeting, with a maximum of 2 minutes per agenda item; under some circumstances, Council may change the maximum to 1 minute per agenda item.  Except for the author of the request, public comment on 12 items are limited to 1 minute.
Electronic Presentation Materials (Suspended until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted)
All PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio, electronic images, and electronic portable document formats (PDFs) intended for use at a City Council meeting, must be received by the City Clerk no later than 12:00 PM on the day of a City Council meeting.
On March 4, 2020, Governor Newsom proclaimed a State of Emergency in California as a result of the threat of COVID-19. On March 12, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-25-20, which allows Council Members to attend City Council meetings telephonically.  Please be advised that to minimize the spread of COIVD-19, some, or all, of the Newport Beach City Council Members may attend this meeting telephonically. 
Also, please be advised that on March 17, 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-29-20, which allows for the public to participate in any meeting of the City Council telephonically or by other electronic means.  Given the health risks associated with COVID-19, the City of Newport Beach has decided to not have City Council Chambers open to the public for this meeting. As a member of the public, if you would like to participate in this meeting, you can participate via the following options: 
1.     You can submit your questions and comments in writing for City Council consideration by sending them to the City Clerk at To give the City Council adequate time to review your questions and comments, please submit your written comments by Thursday, June 25, 2020, at 8:00 a.m.  
2.     In addition, members of the public can participate in this meeting telephonically. Specifically, the meeting will be viewable on NBTV and live-streamed on the City’s website. If you are watching the meeting on NBTV or via the live stream, during the meeting, phone numbers for the public to call and to comment on specific agenda items will be posted on the screen. When you call, you will be placed on hold until it is your turn to speak.  Please note that only twenty (20) people can remain on hold at a time.  If you call in to speak on an item and the line is busy, please call back after a few moments. The City will ensure that it allows enough time per item for everyone to call in to comment.   
Please know that it is important for the City to allow public participation at this meeting.  If you are unable to participate in the meeting via the process set forth above, please contact the City Clerk at (949-644-3005 or and she will attempt to accommodate you.  While the City does not expect there to be any changes to the above process for participating in this meeting, if there is a change, the City will post the information as soon as possible to the City’s website.  
The City of Newport Beach thanks you in advance for continuing to take precautions to prevent the spread of the  COVID-19 virus.
[Header photo: PublicComments © Kelsey Amelia Bates all rights reserved]
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