Thursday, July 29, 2010

Open Government Potholes

The City of Encinitas is again denying residents access to public documents. One document cost $70,000. I’ve been trying to get the document since January.

I want a prosperous future for our hometown. That’s why I research the details of how our city is managed. For the last several years I’ve been pursuing information on the long-term maintenance plan of the city’s streets. Only after pressing, City staff admitted that they didn’t have a current comprehensive assessment of street conditions or an optimized plan to keep the streets from deteriorating.

After the admission, the City hired a contractor to do a streets report. The contract was approved February 2009. The contract required the report be complete by August 2009, in time to be used to develop the City’s road maintenance budget. City staff also admitted that they believed our city was underfunding street maintenance by millions of dollars a year. With streets, an ounce of prevention unequivocally averts a pound of cure. Pay now or pay a lot more later.


The most cost efficient stage for road maintenance is before rapid deterioration begins. (Road condition is on the Y-axis.)
The report is a year overdue and the City Council (minus Barth) blindly approved this year's streets maintenance budget. City records indicate that the consultants were paid for a final report months ago. Council candidate Tony Kranz called the consultants and they say the report has been materially complete for many months (prior to budget approval).

Withholding the document allows staff time to massage the findings and delay the release until an opportune time arises.


It would not be the first time a materially finished report was kept secret from the public for months or even years. There is good evidence that the City-wide Traffic Study, the Cardiff Specific Plan, the Retiree Health Care Cost Study, the Scripps EIR, and the Hall Park EIR were materially complete long before they were released. In the case of the Traffic Study, the consultant and Council discussions would later reveal that the reason for the denial of access to the documents was for personal political gain-the reelection of Council Member Dan Dalager.
A healthy democracy feeds off timely access to relevant facts to facilitate unbiased analysis. Accountability requires open access to public records that show how decisions are being made.
So how does the Council majority subvert the system? They stamp the documents they don’t want released ”draft". Then they turn around and say it is against policy to release drafts. They say possible errors must be edited before release. Why not stamp it draft, release it, then let the public help review the document? This would be a much more open process and the result would be a better final product.

The public understands the difference between a draft and final report. Council’s fear that the public will freak-out if an error is found in a draft is overblown. Isn’t it better to find errors in a draft rather than the final version?

A few residents were able to find serious errors throughout the final City-wide Traffic Report in one weekend, and many more subtle problems later. Because it was too late for the problems to be fixed, and the problems so serious, the Traffic Commission could not recommend accepting the report. The City blew $143,000 on the project.

The City is ignoring the State Constitution, which guarantees access to public records. Attorneys from Calaware, an open government advocacy organization, informed the City that the pavement report must be released, even if it was a draft. The City refuses to address Calaware’s key points. Mayor Dalager has not responded to email asking for reconciliation of the matter. Only Council Member Barth has demonstrated interest in publicly discussing the issue.

Should the City keep everything it deems a draft secret?

Should the City be allowed to keep consultants’ original (bound and delivered) work secret?

Should the City address questions regarding the legality of its open government practices?

If the City doesn’t explain, should the public ask a judge to look into the matter?

We want to know if the public thinks the issue matters or has suggestions for resolving the matter. Please send us feedback.

Kevin Cummins
Vice President
Encinitas Taxpayers Association

Links to Pavement Management Report Issue:
City warned it is violating the law and principles of open government
City will not address key legal issues
Report is done
How this issue could have been collaboratively averted one year ago

8 comments:

  1. Good points Kevin. Dalablabber is all about union secrecy and his own agenda. His agenda is bad for Encinitas. Get the word out. Dalager is evil for Encinitas future.

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  3. More bad Dalager:
    Holding the draft EIR of Hall for almost two years.
    Altering public documents sent out on a General Plan Change.
    Altering and placing untrue descriptions of city funded project.
    Lying to the public on results of Planning Commission findings.
    And more...and more.....

    Put a stop to the strangle hold the 'Good Old Boys' have on our city.
    DUMP DALAGER

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  4. Fight for open government. Leave comment.

    NCT

    http://www.nctimes.com/news/local/encinitas/article_3a10eb18-eef7-5c34-8103-e464dc621e43.html?mode=comments

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  5. What's with the secrecy? Who could possibly support that other than special interests who are benefiting at public expense?

    Seems like Kranz and Barth are the best choice for clean government.

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  6. What do Danny and the boys want to hide before the election?

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  7. Dalablabber wants to hide the fact that the streets are not being maintained as he has boasted, that the City does not have the budget to maintain the streets, and that there is no money for the Hall park, among other debacles. Is is pure hubris and stupidity to think that Encinitas is just humming along with sufficient revenues despite the uprecedented depression and lingering recession. The boys keep the cards close to their collective vests,releasing massaged and incomprehensible reports to snow the public, and taking action on the reports within a week or two. This is just wrong!

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  8. The Boys also change public documents and records to fit their needs.
    It is depressing.
    Stop the strangle hold that these guys have on our city.
    Barth and Krantz.

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