El Paso City Council is holding two meetings this week. The first, a special meeting tomorrow, July 20, 2020 has a discussion and action item adopting a cite and release policy for El Paso Police Department for misdemeanor possession of marihuana. The following day, Tuesday, July 21, 2020, the city council will meet in regular session. In this meeting, the city council will discuss how information about Covid-19 cases on El Paso are released to the public.

In the Monday special meeting City Council will discuss the “Cite and Release Program”. (link below) On May 12, 2020 (Agenda 10.1), City Council directed that a cite and release program be adopted “no later than September 1, 2020”.

Under the proposed program, anyone found in possession of misdemeanor (Class A and B) quantities of marihuana is to be cited and released with a notice to appear in court. The police officer continues to have the discretion during the process. However, if adopted as presented, the ordinance would require reports from the Police Department and the District Attorney’s office on a quarterly basis. The program, if adopted by city council is slated to start on September 1, 2020.

For Tuesday’s regular council meeting, agenda item 19.3 posted by representatives Alexsandra Annello, Cassandra Hernandez and Peter Svarzbein, is seeking to have the City add “the daily cumulative positivity rate, daily number of tests administered, weekly reports on names of facilities and businesses that have outbreaks and clusters of COVID-19 positive cases” to the data released to the community about the ongoing pandemic.

There has been discussion in the community about the lack of specific information about the Coronavirus emergency data that the city is releasing to the community. Additionally, there has been complaints that local call centers have not complied with the pandemic restrictions and that infection data about them is not being released.

Other items on the council agenda, includes contracting Focused Advocacy, LLC, an Austin based lobbing firm representing municipalities and other agencies at the Texas legislature. Item 17.2 proposes paying the Austin firm $10,000 a month for a total of $120,000. The contract, if adopted, allows either party to extend it for an additional year.

The City wants the firm to “represent the City’s general interests before the Texas legislature” and “assist with the development and passage of legislative initiatives” at the state level, in addition to other legislative services the City requires.

As a reminder, the City Council is operating via virtual meetings during the pandemic crisis. The special meeting is scheduled to start at 9:05 am and the regular meeting at 9:00 am. Those wishing to speak on these and other items must do so via teleconference. The numbers are (915) 213-4096 and toll free at (833) 664-9267. Both require the use of access code: 651-051-714#.

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