PAULINA PINEDA THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sep 28, 2023
The change follows a rash of Zoom bombing incidents that have targeted local governments, most recently Santa Rosa during its Tuesday council meeting.
The Santa Rosa City Council will limit public comment at future meetings following a flood of hateful online comments that have targeted local governments including the city during its meeting Tuesday.
People wishing to comment on the agenda or on other city matters must do so in person. They can also submit written comments ahead of the meeting.
Comments made over Zoom and prerecorded voicemail messages that were played during the meeting will no longer be allowed, the city announced in a news release Thursday.
The change, in effect immediately, will remain for the foreseeable future, city spokesperson Lon Peterson said.
The decision comes amid a recent escalation in antisemitic, racist and homophobic comments made virtually during meetings of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and trustees of Santa Rosa City Schools.
Both public agencies have eliminated the option for public comments via Zoom, reversing a practice popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Santa Rosa was the latest local government to be hit by what appears to be a group of organized online commentators who hurled racist and antisemitic comments during the early part of Tuesday’s meeting.
Beforehand, City Attorney Samantha Zutler issued speakers an unusual reminder that comments must be related to the item being discussed or city issues and warned speakers who veered off topic that they would be cut off.
It did little to stop the vitriol from pouring in and over the course of the meeting Zutler and Mayor Natalie Rogers asked the clerk to mute a handful of speakers.
The episode raised concerns among elected officials, and Rogers said while the city is committed to robust engagement it also must foster a safe and inclusive environment for all speakers and staff, according to the announcement.
The new public comment rules apply to all meetings of the City Council as well as city boards and commissions.
Members of the public can still tune into the meetings virtually via YouTube, Zoom, Legistar or follow along on Comcast Channel 28 or AT&T U-verse Channel 99.