Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the City Council finally returned to in-person meetings, after two-years of “virtual” council meetings.
But there was nothing normal about this meeting. Everyone was required to wear a mask, and the council still required social distancing in the audience seating.
And what was on the agenda of their first in-person meeting? “Accelerating carbon neutrality.” Because the Sacramento’s skyrocketing crime and having more homeless living on the streets than San Francisco just isn’t a priority.
The Mayor and Council are even requiring masking and distancing rules for media. Media guidelines say: “Masks will be required in the media room, which, similar to Council Chambers, will be operating at 50% capacity. In total, 12 people will be allowed in the media room at one time. (This number will include a representative from the City’s media and communications team as well as a representative from the Mayor’s office.)”
While the rest of the city has been back to work, and restaurants, bars, clubs, large entertainment and sporting venues have been fully open without restrictions, the City Council has been living in a self-imposed bubble. The Zoo, Funderland and Fairytale Town have been open. Malls and grocery stores have been open without restrictions.
The last live meeting of the City Council was held Friday, March 13, 2020 – more than two years and 866 days ago.
The council on Tuesday looked like it was May 2020 – everyone is masked and the audience members are spread out. Why the political theater?
“After two years of virtual meetings because of the coronavirus pandemic, members of the public were allowed to enter the City Council chambers Tuesday night,” the Sacramento Bee reported. “The council itself returned to the chambers on Aug. 9, but the city prohibited the media and public from attending that meeting in person. Masks were required Tuesday for all attendees, and attendance in the chamber was held to 50% capacity. Much of the meeting and public comment focused on the city’s climate goals.”
As the Globe has reported, the California Legislature was also loathe to return to in-person hearings and floor sessions, and then finally did return but still have distancing restrictions in committee hearing rooms, even as lawmakers sit shoulder-to-shoulder on the dais. Some lawmakers’ offices still have “Do Not Enter” signs on the doors and discourage the public from engaging in person. We’ve observed that despite restrictions being lifted by county public health officials, lawmakers really didn’t want to return to public meetings – that is, meetings in which the public has access to their elected officials.
The mask requirement at Tuesday’s meeting was another oddity. We know the Council members go out in public sans masks, and they attend community meetings around the city sans masks. We have seen council members out and about.
As the Globe reported Wednesday, according to a recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 71% of all children in California have had COVID-19 since the outbreak of the virus in March 2020, a higher rate than expected. Masking and distancing only delayed herd immunity in California, which is finally catching up to other states.
Nowhere masks have been required is there zero Covid. This seems to be a requirement primarily in Democrat-run cities and blue states.
One Globe reader commented: “Two years of silencing opposition only to conclude they were right, thus showing that this was about controlling the people, while aggressively seizing power.”
Another Globe reader managed to sum up many people’s feelings: “Much ado about the common cold. It’s the sniffles. Get over it.”
We are glad the Sacramento City Council is back to work in person. Other states learned to live with Covid; Sacramento and California can also.