MENDOCINO Co., 6/21/22 — Public participation is paramount in democracy, and the public’s right to meeting participation is solidified under California state law. But speakers must follow specific guidelines in order to participate in meetings — so we’ve put together this guide to help our readers make their voices heard about essential issues at local government meetings.
The Brown Act, passed by the California state legislature in 1953, lays out the rules public agencies must follow to conduct fair, open meetings. The law states that, “the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this state exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business…The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”
“The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created,” it continues.
Mendocino County Board of Supervisors
In Mendocino County, citizens have the opportunity to participate in several types of public meetings. The highest governing body in the county is the Board of Supervisors, which consists of one elected representative from each of five districts in the county.
The BOS holds meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month. During these meetings, the public may attend and express their views on certain issues the board is discussing.
Under the Brown Act, the BOS must release an agenda of what is to be discussed 72 hours prior to the meeting. In Mendocino County’s case, meeting agendas are released online on the Thursday before a meeting.
In the case of a special meeting called by the board, agendas must be made public 24 hours in advance.
Public comment: agenda Items
The public has the right to speak to any item on the board’s agenda. The board asks individuals who are speaking to state their first and last name for the meeting minutes.
Individuals wishing to speak on a particular agenda item must wait until the BOS reaches that item in the meeting. Public comment is allowed in person at the BOS meetings, which take place in the board’s chambers at 501 Low Gap Road, Room 1070 in Ukiah. Meetings typically begin at 9 a.m.
Because of the COVID pandemic, the public is now able to join meetings virtually. Individuals wishing to participate online can join the meeting via Zoom, using the Webinar ID that is published on the first page of the meeting’s agenda.
Those participating in meetings via Zoom will be prompted to use the “raise your hand” feature if they wish to speak on a certain agenda item. Participants who are using Zoom via telephone can dial *9 when prompted to raise their hand.
People who are not able to attend meetings but still wish to comment on agenda items can do so in two ways. When the agenda is released 72 hours prior to the meeting, individuals can submit an eComment here, which will be read aloud at the meeting.
Individuals can also leave a voicemail at 707-234-6333 to be played during the meeting as it relates to the agenda. Those wishing to leave a voicemail have until 8 a.m. the day of the meeting if they wish for their message to be played aloud.
Public expression: non-agenda items
Under the Brown Act, non-agenda public comment must be allowed at all public meetings. The BOS allows time at the start of each meeting for public expression, where individuals may express their views on issues not to be discussed during the meeting.
Those interested in participating in public expression may do so at the meeting, over Zoom, by eComment or by leaving a voicemail.
While public expression is reserved for subjects that are not on the meeting’s agenda, under state law the expression must be restricted to subjects that are covered by the BOS. For example, the public may not ask the board for action on something reserved for the state legislature.
The BOS is not allowed to discuss non-agenda items or take action such as holding a vote on such items, though members of the board are able to provide a brief response to the public expression. Issues brought up during public expression may not be turned into agenda items for that day, though they can be added to future meeting agendas.
Municipal Advisory Councils
Municipal advisory councils in Mendocino County are the governing bodies for unincorporated areas. The BOS established these councils for unincorporated areas in the county to advise the board on matters of public health, safety, welfare, public works and planning. You can learn more about these and special districts in our Mendo Maps project here.
There are six municipal advisory councils in the county. Here is the meeting time and location for each council:
- Gualala Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the first Thursday of each month via Zoom
- Hopland Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the third Wednesday of each month via Zoom
- Laytonville Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the last Wednesday of each month via Zoom
- Redwood Valley Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the second Tuesday of each month at 8650 East Rd., Redwood Valley and via Zoom
- Round Valley Area Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the first Wednesday of each month via Zoom
- Westport Municipal Advisory Council: meetings held the first Tuesday of each month at the Westport Community Center