Category: Open Government
The city's documents archive is down. Anyone looking to see who has been contributing to active candidates can not do so.
Why was the archive brought down right before the election? Why not put the disclosures on the website (outside of the archive)?
See also: Campaign Donation Disclosures On-Line
This June, Steve Aceti made a public request of the city council. He asked that the city put a sand tax on the city council's agenda (It is now called Prop K). According to Mayor Stocks, Aceti's request was granted because the Mayor saw "no problem with a public discussion to determine which way the Council wishes to proceed," and noted that because none of the other councilmembers had objected that he "took that to be a consensus and asked that it be placed on a future agenda." It was heard weeks later.
The Mayor sets the agenda, so he has the authority to make such decisions.
It is possible that he was just giving deference to Aceti, who has allied with Stocks in the past.
After considering the Mayor's justification for putting the sand tax on the agenda I decided to try my own request. I publicly petitioned the council, just like Aceti. I asked that the council consider working on a sunshine ordinance. None of the councilmembers objected to my suggestion.
A sunshine ordinance could be helpful in keeping government open and transparent. With a good sunshine ordinance, access to public records could be ensured, meetings could be kept open, people would be notified of important activities, and important issues would always be aired.
We do have the California Public Records Act and the Brown Act. These laws set the minimum for open government. Many other cities have found it important to go beyond the minimum and have enacted sunshine ordinances. Encinitas could add some teeth to the open government laws in an ordinance as a first step. The city doesn't always do the minimum and they know that that very few people are going to go through the massive effort it takes to file a legal action against the city, so they get away with it.
I was happily surprised that Mayor Stocks decided to agree to put a sunshine ordinance on the agenda. I was surprised because I have been making this request for several years now and the request has been ignored by all but Councilmember Barth. She has taken the issue seriously. It must by mentioned that Houlihan has once given a nod to the idea, however she has been in office for eight years and has been made aware of many violations of open government laws during that time.
At this time, I believe that Stocks only agreed to the request because he was facing an upcoming election.
He agreed to have the matter heard prior to Oct 1. That was 17 days ago. I emailed him a week ago asking him about the delay.
He has not responded.
It is time for a public discussion to determine which way the Council wishes to proceed regarding open government.
From the inbox:
Encinitas Campaign Documents Back Online -- Sorta!
At the urging of resident, Henry Eiler, in writing and during the Public Forum of the Council, Encinitas is again providing campaign disclosure documents at http://archive.ci.encinitas.ca.us/weblink7/browse.aspx?startid=632517. However it is a tad ‘dicey’ to retrieve the files unless you follow ‘the yellow brick road’ because if you type either “campaign”, “campaign statements” or the like, into the sites’ search engine, the listing of Campaign Statements comes up and directs you to a blank page where the documents were previously. Even a ‘savvy’ reporter asked Eiler for help in locating the documents on line after she failed to gain access to the files. The public’s right to know about the honesty and integrity of their elected officials and candidates is paramount and consistently shown in surveys to be the most important factor in voter selection of their elected officials. “To continue to hinder access to these relevant documents just weeks before the election is outrageous!” said Eiler, when asked about his efforts against attempts to stifle dissent in Encinitas!
For years, Encinitas provided campaign disclosure documents online for candidates to the City Council. However the City Clerk mysteriously took them off line earlier this year shortly after they were used to substantiate an on-going criminal investigation of Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan by the State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). After the formal complaint was filed, these documents mysteriously were removed from the City’s website. The documents signed by Houlihan show dozens of blank entries where specific donor information is required and a fiscal discrepancy of $700 for a loan to Houlihan. The complaint details 96 alleged violations of the Political Reform Act. The FPPC may assess up to a maximum of $5000 per count. Last month City Clerk Deborah Cervone, in a phone conversation stated “they had done a survey of other cities and found that Encinitas was the only city to do this,” so she decided to remove them from the web site. When it was pointed out to her that San Diego continues to provide onsite disclosure she stated, “I didn’t know that.”
Eiler recently submitted a request to the City for “a copy of any and all phone logs, messages, emails, documents, writings or other communications by the City of Encinitas regarding the recent policy change that discontinued the practice of posting these public documents on the City’s web site.” The City responded, saying it had no documents for this request, even though Cervone had said they had made a survey of nearby cities!
Henry Eiler, PhD
See Also: Information Gatekeepers
If you want to get campaign contribution statement from the city you now have to do a records request through the city clerk's office. The request becomes public record.
The statements were previously on the website as they are in many other cities.
After citizen complaints the city has made some adjustments. Now they put a link on the city website (see image). The link tells you to request the documents from the city clerk.
We now have the statements and we have made them available here, without going through a gatekeeper.
Next Wednesday night the city will consider issuing another citizen satisfaction poll.
Stocks, Houlihan, Dalager, and Bond have approved polls in the past. A couple years ago they approved a poll that they used to help justify an attempt to get Encinitas voters to approve a tax increase. The conclusions draw from the poll were terribly wrong and the voters shot down the tax.
Then there was the citizen satisfaction poll. At the time, the current President of the Encinitas Taxpayers Association had pressed the city to improve the survey, or simply not pay for a poll. He was unsuccessful. Stocks, Dalager and Bond voted to spend $10,000 for a citizen satisfaction poll.
Read about the citizen poll here:
Survey Says Residents Satisfied: Taxpayer Not Satisfied with Survey
Moore Information Does Not Respond to Taxpayer
City Denies Request to Share the Survey Data
Minster's survey notes
This list was pulled out of the ETA archives.
ENCINITAS CITY COUNCIL CLEAN WATER REGULATORY FEE
Ø Council admitted that the proposed tax is all about money, yet continues to promote it as an environmental issue.
Ø Council held 2 mock public hearings. Council had already made up its mind and authorized staff to have ballots and mailings printed and ready for delivery the next day.
Ø Council used $110,000 of taxpayers money to hire consultants to manipulate the voters and the outcome of the election.
Ø Council consultants, at taxpayer expense, promised to provide a group of local pro-tax supporters to fight any opposition and one has already appeared.
Ø Council chose a mail ballot procedure so that they would not have to include an opposition statement in the ballot packet. Voters will only receive a biased statement from the city to vote upon unless the opposition can raise enough money to get the truth out.
Ø Council agreed in a settlement with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that they would remain neutral during the election, yet they have been actively involved throughout the process and even helped prepare a slanted ballot statement.
Ø Votes are going to be collected by the city and counted by one of the city’s paid consultants.
Ø Council decided to conduct much of the election process during the Christmas/Hanukah/New Years Holidays, when people were out of town or preoccupied. Their purpose was clearly to hamper the opposition and influence the election outcome.
Ø Council chose a January 19 ballot mailing date to limit the opposition to just an unprecedented 75 days to get organized, prepare literature, raise money and educate the electorate. The city had been preparing for this assault for over a year.
Ø City hall all but shut down for 10 days of the 75 days because of the holidays and there was no one available to answer questions.
Ø Data collection from the city has been very difficult. Most requests for information have required the full 10 days.
Ø Two weeks before the election, the opposition was still unable to determine who was eligible to vote.
Ø Council chose a water meter tax and a trash bill collection process rather than a more equitable property tax collected by the county so that it would only need 50 plus % of the votes rather than the legitimate 66.6% tax requirement.
Ø The water meter tax is unfair because single family homeowners will be required to pay almost all the tax. Approximately 1/3 of all Encinitas residents will not pay the water meter tax and business will not pay their share.
Stocks, Houlihan, Dalager, Guerin, and Bond were fully aware of these activities and in most cases they directed the actions.
See Also: Prop C: For the Record, Part I