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Council meetings will continue being on Zoom
July council zoom ceres
Ceres City Council meetings will still be seen on Zoom for a while. This was a view of the council via Zoom on July 11.

COVID-19 introduced new practices to government, including allowing folks to participate in City Council meetings via the Zoom teleconference system. Despite the fact that most of life in America has returned to normal with the waning of COVID, the Ceres City Council wants its meetings still accessible online in a hybrid format, meaning citizens have the option of attending in person.

The situation likely will not be permanent, however.

In Stanislaus County, the cities of Ceres, Modesto, Riverbank and Patterson and Hughson still have hybrid meetings. According to Councilman Mike Kline, the city of Hughson has hybrid meetings with the disclaimer that meetings will not cease if there is a failure of the online access.

The cities of Oakdale, Turlock, Newman and Gustine currently offer residents to watch meetings on Zoom but cannot participate in discussions, said Kline.

Vice Mayor Bret Silveira said he wants to see the hybrid system offered “since we’re not completely out of the weeds with COVID and the pandemic.”

Mayor Javier Lopez said he would consider making changes “at a later date but I like the way that we’re doing it now.”

“Personally, I don’t like the idea of us having to stop (the meeting) because we have technical difficulties,” said Lopez. “I think out of respect we would probably stop anyways but at the same time I think it’s important that the public is able to gain access to watching our meetings.”

Deputy City Attorney Nubia Goldstein explained that the AB 361 does away with old teleconference rules that dictated that public officials who wanted to participate in meetings remotely would have to post the agenda at their location – most likely they would be home – disclose their location and allow the public access to that official during the meeting. Because of privacy reasons, the Legislature said that elected officials may participate in a hybrid meeting remotely but the council has to pass an emergency resolution every 30 days.

AB 361, she explained, does not restrict whether or not a city offers hybrid meetings. Some cities have decided to go back to the way things were before – physical attendance meetings only.

AB 361 will sunset at some point, she noted.

Residents John Warren, John Osgood and Rosalinda Vierra each voiced their desire to see hybrid meetings continue. Warren added he doesn’t want council meetings to stop in the event of technical problems with Zoom but Goldstein pointed out that under AB 361, meetings must be ended if the city encounters problems with its visual and audio signals.

She said Hughson probably gets away with not ending meetings during a Zoom interruption because members have to show up in person.