The Signal Hill City Council met as usual in council chambers for its Tuesday, March 24 meeting, though with limited capacity for public attendance due to COVID-19 concerns. However, the public could teleconference into the meeting and view it on the city’s website and local cable channels, as usual.
Council members also attempted to maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other during the meeting, as per state and county health directives.
During the meeting, the council conducted its annual reorganization, selecting Robert Copeland as mayor and Tina Hansen as vice mayor. It also ratified a March 19 emergency proclamation and approved spending $51,000 on emergency supplies.
As it does each year, the council reorganized, selecting a new mayor and vice mayor from among its five members. For each position, it first nominated members and then voted.
Councilmember Tina Hansen nominated Vice Mayor Robert Copeland as mayor. Councilmember Edward Wilson moved the nominations closed, with Councilmember Keir Jones seconding the motion. The council unanimously approved Copeland’s nomination.
Copeland thanked the council before taking over proceedings from outgoing mayor Lori Woods. He did not switch seats with her as he normally would, to maintain social distancing.
“Especially at this time, I’m going to be really leveraging the senior councilmembers and, of course, the fresh thoughts of our junior councilmember, Keir Jones,” Copeland said. “I really appreciate your confidence in me and I look forward to serving the city.”
Copeland then called for vice-mayor nominations, which proved more complicated.
Woods nominated Hansen. Wilson nominated himself, noting that Hansen had recently served as mayor, out of step with the council’s normal rotation cycle.
Hansen moved to close nominations, noting that while she had recently served as mayor, the current year would have been her normal time to rotate in and she is also the senior councilmember by two years.
“I would like to work with Robert and move the city forward during this time,” she said.
Wilson said he, too, is a senior councilmember and would have been up next for vice mayor and then mayor next year.
“To be consistent with how we’ve done things in the past, I would be next in the rotation,” he said.
Woods said she nominated Hansen because she is the most seasoned councilmember and would offer Copeland support like she did when Woods was first mayor.
“She has definitely shown the time and dedication to the job and is very easily accessible to both city staff and to councilmembers in responding to city concerns, more so than other council members,” Woods said.
Woods added that Hansen as vice mayor would be best practice, regardless of the normal rotation schedule.
“There’s nothing in our charter or bylaws to maintain strict order in rotation,” Woods said.
Wilson agreed that the policy is not codified but said he also has been accessible to everyone.
“I am here in the city locally, every day,” he said. “I do have the time, the wherewithal, the experience, the knowledge and have worked with Robert in the past on the Sustainable Cities Committee.”
Jones said that both Hansen and Wilson would do a good job and that, in a sense, the entire council serves as vice mayor.
“We’re here to support each other,” Jones said.
Copeland said that he would also be comfortable with either Hansen or Wilson as vice mayor.
The council voted 4 to 1 in favor of Hansen, with Wilson casting the sole vote for himself.
Copeland then read a proclamation to Woods commending her past year of service, marking her “authenticity, enthusiasm and dedication.”
He said Woods presided during a busy year of economic development, including the opening of Jimmy E’s restaurant, remodeling of two auto dealerships, planning and receiving funds for new housing development, rehabilitating Orange Avenue, and constructing two phases of a Los Cerritos Channel stormwater-capture project.
Woods also saw the opening of the new Signal Hill Public Library last year, and the selection of a homeless-liaison police officer, progress in expanding Signal Hill Park, development of an urban water-management plan and a map-your-neighborhood program for the city’s emergency-response team, Copeland said.
Woods thanked the council, but said she would reserve further comments until a mayor’s reception–– which had been canceled that night due to virus concerns–– could be rescheduled.
Jones said that Woods had been an outstanding mentor to him during his first year on council.
“Thank you for your service,” he told her.
After reorganizing, the council adopted a resolution ratifying the proclamation of a local emergency in response to COVID-19, as allowed by State Government Code 8558.
City Manager Shin-Heydorn said that as director of emergency services, her proclamation on March 19 allowed the City to implement guidelines to combat the spread of the virus.
However, per the City’s charter, that action has to be ratified by the council within seven days to stay in effect, she said.
She added that if this were only a local emergency, the council would have to review the proclamation at least every 60 days, but the State’s March 4 declaration of emergency waives that requirement.
“City council’s ratification tonight will put in place a framework on behalf of the City that supports the continuity of essential public-safety services, allows for the utilization of mutual aid, provides opportunity to seek reimbursement for expenses incurred to address the pandemic and ensures the City has all available tools at its disposal to keep the community safe,” Shin-Heydorn said.
The staff report indicates that as director of emergency services, the ratification also allows Shin-Heydorn to procure COVID-19-related supplies, enforce quarantine and curfew orders, order ill City employees to leave or work remotely, impose eviction limits and approve payments without council consent.
The resolution also gives first responders and emergency services priority for essentials such as gasoline and water.
The council also approved another resolution to use $51,431 of a general-fund surplus to procure COVID-19-related supplies for first responders, such as hand-washing stations, gloves, masks and gowns.
Though the council had previously earmarked those funds to replace playground equipment, Shin-Heydorn said the City will seek reimbursement from the State to replenish that fund.
After some discussion, the council also agreed to continue conducting its meetings.
“I think it’s important the community sees us still physically here,” Hansen said.
Wilson concurred that the council and other government agencies should continue their work.
“I would do all that we can to keep the city running as normally as possible,” he said.
But the council resolved that the city’s three commissions and other committees should only meet as necessary, though members have the option to convene in person or by teleconferencing.
In terms of other government operations, Shin-Heydorn said that most facilities are already closed to the public, including city hall, library, public-works yard, playgrounds, restrooms, basketball courts and exercise equipment in parks. The dog park is also closed and afterschool, youth-sports and senior programs are canceled.
Most of the city’s walking trails are on private property and covered by homeowner’s associations (HOA), but the council advised HOAs to close them, though they can’t enforce such a policy.
And though the open spaces of the city’s parks are still open, the council urged residents to maintain a safe social distance of six feet. It also advised the public not to utilize park exercise or playground equipment, even though police can’t enforce compliance.
“Don’t touch stuff in public,” Hansen advised. “Use common sense.”
For up-to-date COVID-19 information and related policies, the council directed residents to consult the City’s website at cityofsignalhill.org/coronavirus.
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, April 14 at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.