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Berkeley to Vote on Sunshine Ordinance
Last summer, by a 4-1 (Barth) vote, the Encinitas City Council shot down the idea a sunshine ordinance that would improve the public's access to government documents and meetings.
"After a couple of weeks of negotiating with the city bureaucracy the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance has cleared all of the hurdles for circulating an initiative," reports ordinance organizer Dean Metzger in the Berkeley Daily Planet. "Due to the lack of support from our city elected officials and city staff, the committee felt that the only way to get real sunshine (open government) in Berkeley was to circulate the ordinance as an initiative and place the ordinance on the November 2010 ballot."
The initiative is now being circulated to get the required signatures. The highlights of the ordinance are as follows.
* Assures that meetings take place when and where people are most able to attend.
* Keeps decision making in the open for the City Council, Rent Board, Library Trustees and all City boards, commissions and committees.
* Opens up to the public committees and subcommittees that formerly were not subject to noticing and minute keeping requirements.
* Gives the public the right to know how their representatives voted in Closed Sessions even if motions were not approved and no action taken.
* Requires enough City Council meetings so that meetings adjourn around 11:00 p.m.
* Provides an orderly meeting structure so that you know in advance how much time you have for your comments.
* Ensures adequate time for decision makers to hear from the public and study relevant information before voting on an issue.
* Promotes civility at meetings when the public has full access to information and the opportunity to comment.
* Permits the public to place items on the agenda of the City Council with 100 signatures and on the agendas of boards and commissions with 50 signatures.
* Informs citizens about the activities of their representatives on regional agencies and in meetings with the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
* Requires full disclosure of private discussions regarding development issues and with lobbyists.
Access to Information
* Organizes records to provide easier access by the public for information.
* Guarantees timely access to public information, and minimizes delays and costs of obtaining copies of important documents.
* Prohibits arbitrary withholding and redaction of City documents requested by the public.
* Promotes greater use of electronic records in order to reduce City costs of providing information.
* Provides guidelines in an atmosphere of rapidly changing technology for the City to smoothly transition to electronic records, reducing paper and significantly decreasing costs while ensuring full access to public information.
* Establishes an independent, appointed Sunshine Review Commission, with protections against influence by the City Council, City officials, and others.
* Authorizes the Commission to work proactively with staff and decision makers to improve public processes, noticing, and access to information.
* Requires timely rulings by the Commission on alleged sunshine violations, and provides penalties for violations in accord with existing Berkeley and state law.
* Provides a process for early identification of Sunshine violations and to correct them so expensive litigation is avoided.
* Identifies a funding source for the Commission to bring enforcement actions, and minimizes financial risk for individuals seeking to address violations.
For more info go to berkeleysunshine.org.