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.
NCT A plea for pension reform
You know the pension tsunami is getting close to the shore when the mainstream media are filled with hard-hitting stories about the coming crisis, such as the front-page Sacramento Bee and Fresno Bee article last Sunday documenting the way huge pension costs for retired public employees "threaten California cities (and) counties."
SacBee The Public Eye: Pension promises threaten California cities, counties
This year, the city of Roseville will spend about as much to fund its pension plan as it does on parks and recreation.
San Luis Obispo County will spend five times as much on pensions as it does prosecuting criminals.
And Stanislaus County's pension costs will be nearly double its $23.5 million general fund budget deficit...
In the following clip, from the Feb 24, 2010 council meeting, City Manager Cotton and long-time Council Member Bond admit to not following their policy of putting major "expenditures"/bonding to the vote of the people. The Council had agreed to the policy because the Encinitas Taxpayers Association had prepared to run an initiative to make that policy law.
Here is the 1993 letter from the Encinitas Taxpayers Association that motivated the City Council to adopt the policy of letting the voters decide on long-term debt. Here are the minutes from the 1993 council meeting.
Last month the ETA ran a campaign to alert the city about the relationship between the water district and the City of Encinitas. Click here for the campaign background.
Here are some of the public comments from the Council Meeting.
The whole meeting can be viewed here (Feb 24, 2010).
UT Supervisors slash grant funding in half
After hearing hours of public debate, county supervisors voted yesterday to halve the funding for a high-profile grant program that allows them to distribute $10 million annually to community causes of their choice...
See Also: Supervisors Slammed
Supervisor Slater gets credit for donating toward the Cardiff statue. She didn't donate to the statue, the taxpayers did.
The NCTimes gave the Encinitas City Council a rose for not giving the CM a raise.
The 'Fiscal Responsibility' award
A rose to the Encinitas City Council for voting against a proposal to give Encinitas City Manager Phil Cotton an 11 percent raise.
If the raise had been granted, Cotton's base salary would have increased by $21,859, bringing his overall annual compensation package to nearly a quarter of a million dollars. That's a lot of money to run a city of only about 60,000 people.
The NCT editorial is a little misleading. The Council never voted. Watch this series of videos to see how it went down.
Stocks' comments make it clear that he was supporting the raise.
Gary Gallegos, executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, would see his $240,000 annual base salary grow by $50,000 over five years under a recommendation due to reach the agency’s board of directors tomorrow.
Barth was already on record against a raise and during the meeting Jim Bond made these statements.
Stocks' position was not going to win. Watch how Barth moves for a vote against the raise, Houlihan fails to second the motion, Stocks finds a way to avoid a vote, and Mayor Dalager pushes on to the next agenda item without a vote being taken.
These two public speakers stayed around for hours to speak. It is worth watching. One of them is a city council candidate.