In favor of an open governmentThe right of the people to know what their government is doing is fundamental to democracy. Not only do they have the right to know what decisions have been made they also have the right to participate in making those decisions.
Some cities in California have enacted Open Government policies, often referred to as Sunshine Ordinances, which go beyond the minimum requirements of the Brown Act and the Public Records Act.
I support a Sunshine Ordinance because I want to send a clear message to the public, the staff, current and future councils, boards and commissions that the city of Encinitas values open and transparent government.
Transparency is the foundation of an ethical government. Local policies that go beyond the minimum requirements of the Brown Act and the Public Records Act help to instill public trust and confidence in their local government.
At the June 10, 2009 City Council meeting, I proposed a citizen’s task force to work with staff to craft a Sunshine Ordinance for Encinitas. My colleagues said the city was already in compliance with existing laws and a Sunshine Ordinance was not necessary. I believe we should set a higher goal. We should strive to do the “Best Not the Least”.
Without a written policy it is too easy to abuse state open government laws. We must send a clear message to the public that the city of Encinitas values open and transparent government and we will hold ourselves and the staff accountable to these goals.
The citizens of Encinitas deserve nothing less but they must demand it. Let the city council know you support a Sunshine Ordinance and will vote for candidates who do.
Teresa Arballo Barth Councilwoman City of Encinitas
We support Sunshine in government. We truly need a sunshine ordinance at the local level in Encinitas. Transparency promotes honesty, accessibility, accountability and integrity of public officers and employees.
Draft documents are to be provided when someone submits a public document request, except under limited conditions defined in the California Public Records Act (CPRA). A private citizen should not be forced to sue (successfully, in the case of Cummins v. Encinitas) so that the Court had to order full disclosure of the documents wrongly being withheld.
Closed sessions typically should be considered a part of regularly scheduled Council Meetings. Our city attorney knows about pending closed sessions far enough in advance to give 72-hour notice, enabling more people to participate in the open part of the meetings. Not EVERY closed session should be called a stand-alone special meeting. In Encinitas other special meetings DO GET 72-HOUR NOTICE. Closed sessions are the exception, always with only 24-hour notice.
According to the Brown Act, the public must have an opportunity to discuss agenda items, which detail specifically proposed policy changes. The recent change of selecting our mayor, whereby the rotation went from a one year to a two-year term, was NOT on the agenda. No one could speak to the second substitute motion made by Mayor Jerome Stocks, as public discussion was closed.
True open government demonstrates respect for the citizens. Encinitas is composed of all the people who reside and work here. City officers and employees would honor their duty to uphold the public trust by passing a sunshine ordinance, which Teresa Barth, and before, Maggie Houlihan called for on numerous occasions prior to Maggie’s untimely death. The majority of council members have shown themselves to be fearful of being transparent, as required by State Law and demanded by the public.
Filed Under: Letters