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Editorial:  Inglewood City Council’s new hours aren’t exactly welcoming

The Inglewood City Council at a meeting on Feb. 24.

The Inglewood City Council at a meeting on Feb. 24.

(Los Angeles Times)

The Inglewood City Council, fresh off an unsuccessful effort to sue a City Hall critic into silence, voted this week to move all of its meetings to the early afternoon instead of the evening. The decision to hold meetings when many city residents will be busy at work was presented as a way to use city staff more efficiently and avoid meetings that drag into the wee hours of the morning. But it sure looks like another attempt to squelch public input.

Earlier this year, the same council took advantage of a loophole in state election law to approve the construction of a giant football stadium without conducting a full environmental review or taking a vote of the people. Then the city filed a federal lawsuit against resident Joseph Teixeira, alleging he violated copyright law by using snippets of official council meeting footage in YouTube videos that criticized Mayor James T. Butts Jr. Calling the lawsuit a “serious threat to critical political expression,” a federal judge tossed out the city’s claims and ordered it to pay Teixeira’s lawyers $117,741 in fees.

Since then, The Times reported, the city has stopped posting council meetings on YouTube. It’s also cut the time residents can speak during the meetings’ public comment period from two minutes per person to one. So it’s understandable that residents, especially those skeptical of the city leadership, feel the move to daytime meetings is part of trend to limit participation and curtail opposing views.

To be sure, Inglewood isn’t the only government body that doesn’t want meetings to linger into the late hours. The Los Angeles City Council, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Unified School District — professional bodies with full-time elected representatives overseeing massive bureaucracies that answer to millions of constituents — all meet during the day. But rather than Inglewood’s City Council modeling itself after those much bigger governmental bodies, the latter could learn a thing or two from smaller city councils and schedule more evening meetings in various communities so average working folks can attend and voice their opinions.

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Whether in Los Angeles, Inglewood or the tiniest community, the goal should be maximum participation, not what’s best or most convenient for the elected officials.

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