Merced County Times Newspaper
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Local human rights activist concerned about public comment at meetings, homeless issues, evictions

'It’s hard to know what’s going on,' she says

 

When the Merced County Board of Supervisors held its last meeting on March 31, Gloria Sandoval was a little late getting in some questions about an item on the agenda she was interested in commenting on.

The meeting inside the board chambers of the County Administration Building was closed to the public due to the ongoing pandemic and stay-at-home rules, though the proceedings were broadcast live on the county’s website and on Facebook.

County officials did give notice of public comment through letters and email before the meeting, but there was a cutoff point. There was no live public comment during the meeting, except through the Facebook feed that apparently was not viewed by leaders live during the meeting.

A similar situation is due up tonight when the Merced City Council will hold a “telephonic meeting” at 6 p.m. (See info below)

Sandoval, a coordinator for the group Central Valley Journey For Justice, says she understands the extraordinary circumstances local government leaders have found themselves in during a pandemic and stay-at-home orders; however, she urges that the issue of public interaction and hearing from our leaders is of the upmost importance.

“It’s really frustrating to see this change in the way the public is participating,” she told the Times. “I wasn’t successful in trying to get my questions in.”

Sandoval was concerned about Item No. 24 — a request from Public Works for leaders to approve a bid contract process to demolish the Kane Building located at 2150 M Street in downtown Merced. The mid-1960s building was most recently occupied by Probation and the Public Defender’s offices. The reasoning for the demolition was due to “antiquated buildings systems that are costly to repair and not feasible to replace. Remodeling was also ruled out. The price for the job — already accounted for in the current fiscal budget — is $600,000.

The item was unanimously approved by the board without discussion.

“My first reaction was — $600,000 to demolish this good building?” Sandoval said. “If it’s empty, why can’t it be used to temporarily house or give services to homeless people in town. We keep moving them along from their tents, and people are hiding even more now during the pandemic. .. I don’t know how much money is being spent on closing camps, picking up items, and storing them. …

“I get a little frustrated because it seems to me that there is this feeling that all homeless people are the same. They are not the same. Some are able and willing to assist others in the same situation. It’s hard to know what’s going on, but when I have ventured outside, I still see the tents.”

Sandoval also expressed concern about possible evictions in town, echoing the sentiments of various email writers that did get their comments heard last week at the meeting.

“People are scared of evictions as more and more people become unemployed,” she said. “There are some hopes with this stimulus thing, but there are too many issues with it. If you don’t have a bank account, it’s unknown right now when you are going to get a check, if you get one at all. … We are all in this together. We really have to take care of each other. And this pandemic is only growing. … We need some leadership here. We need to make extraordinary measures.”

 

Council to hold telephonic meeting April 6

(City instructions previously released)

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and recent “stay home” orders, the Merced City Council will hold its April 6 meeting telephonically. The meeting format is allowed under Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20.

There will be no meeting held in the Civic Center in order to protect the public and City staff and Council from the coronavirus. The meeting will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday on Facebook Live at City of Merced, on the City’s website www.cityofmerced.org, or Comcast Public Access Channel 96.

People may submit public comments to the City Council electronically no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments received before the deadline will be read as part of the record. Material may be emailed to [email protected] and should be limited to 500 words or less. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on, i.e. item number or Oral Communications. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time. Any correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.

You may provide telephonic comments via voicemail by calling (209) 388-8688 by no later than
3 p.m. on the day of the meeting in order to be added to the public comment. Voicemails will be limited to three minutes. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time.

On the agenda:

Certification of March 3, 2020 Special Municipal Election returns for City-sponsored Measures K (Mayor’s Term), L (Citizens’ Stipend Setting Commission) and M (Finance Officer Requirements)

Approval of a supplemental appropriation in the amount of $150,000 from the General Fund Balance to cover expenditures due to COVID-19

A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

NOTICE: The City of Merced is doing its part to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Our offices are closed until further notice. In order to protect the health and safety of the public and our employees, core staff are working on-site, and others are working remotely. It may take additional time for someone to reply, so please bear with us.

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