The Arcata City Council chambers will sit empty no more! During its Wednesday night meeting, the Arcata City Council decided that after more than a year of meeting virtually over Zoom, it will return to meeting in-person starting on July 22.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order that suspended portions of the Brown Act to allow government bodies to fully meet virtually during the pandemic will be lifted on Sep. 30, which means the council is required to resume in-person meetings in October. But the council members agreed that they were eager to meet in person as soon as possible.
As far as COVID-19 safety protocols, the council decided that masking will only be required for non-vaccinated individuals and that the City will not require proof of vaccination, but will implement an honor system and trust that anyone who attends unmasked is, in fact, vaccinated. The council also decided against removing some seating in the council chambers or the use of any kind of partitions to enforce social distancing.
Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said that the City is still working to procure all of the necessary equipment to hold hybrid meetings, so that those who are not comfortable or unable to attend in-person will still have the option to attend over Zoom. With any luck, the City will be able to hold the July 22 meeting in the hybrid fashion, Diemer said, but, if it is not possible, public will still have the option to email or call to comment.
Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Councilmember Brett Watson officially ascended to the role of mayor. Watson was already serving as interim mayor in the place of previous councilmember Sofia Pereira, who resigned last month. Councilmember Stacy Atkins-Salazar will now serve as vice mayor, the role previously held by Watson.
The council will reassign these positions in late December, but the council seemed to agree that, with both council members scheduled to serve in these roles next year per the council’s usual rotation, Watson will most likely continue to serve as mayor and Atkins-Salazar as vice mayor of Arcata in 2022.
Earlier in the meeting, the council unanimously approved a statement of support for Arcata’s LQBTQ+ community, written and presented by Councilmember Emily Goldstein in response to two recent anti-LGBTQ acts of vandalism.
Both acts of vandalism took place on the corner of 18th and H Streets in late June — Pride Month. First, someone burned a Pride flag that had been hung in the city-owned planter at 18th and H Streets. In response, community members gathered for a Pride celebration at the location on June 25. During the gathering, participants hung hand-crafted pride decorations on an ornamental cherry tree in the planter. Sometime over the next two days, someone cut down and removed the tree.
Diemer recently told the Outpost that the incident is currently being investigated as felony vandalism and possibly a hate crime.
“While we are grateful that no physical harm came to any member of our community, these are acts of hate and violence,” Goldstein read from the statement. “We as a city stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings and unequivocally denounce these and any acts of violence and hatred. These acts should serve as a reminder to us that we still have a long way to go to ensure the equity and safety of our LGBTQ+ community. This is just the start of a conversation and one that needs to be had again and again. We invite our community to join in the conversation. Together we must actively and tirelessly work for equity and justice for all.”