Thursday, July 21, 2011

Encinitas Open Government Update

by Gerald Sodomka

Last night I was the only one to speak on the council discussion on the city's appeal of the Cummins ruling. I asked to put a discussion of a Sunshine Ordinance on the agenda.  Council agreed to revisit email retention and to get a clearer definition of a "draft."

Each council member spoke in turn about why they supported an appeal:

Bond: the city has one full time staff member to chase requests;  law has had unintended consequences; can lead to wild speculation and rumors.

LB translation: Sharing information with the public is a burden and we should do all we can to limit access to public information. Why not put all the documents on line? The city wouldn't need one full time person for records requests if they just changed policy. Silly me, that would mean giving up control and monitoring of information flow. Scratch that idea.

Stocks:  clouds and confuses the issue;  wanted to invite a full panel of judges to decide this issue;  not precedent setting;  may get sued again.

LB translation: We are going to continue withholding public records and we are going to continue to do so without adequately explaining why. A sunshine ordinance and sunshine commission could dramatically reduce the chance of a lawsuit but that would mean becoming more transparent (Stocks proudly fought against a Sunshine Ordinance).

The panel of judges thought the case was so weak they didn't even want to waste time hearing it.

Houlihan:  wanted a bright line;  seven months delay, must manage work flow better in future;  only minor changes in draft.

LB translation: I want want an activist judge to create a sunshine ordinance for me because I don't want to do it. I also want to have better project oversight but I don't want the public to have access to documents that can allow them to monitor project progression.

Barth: wanted a judge to decide on first challenge;  clear decision of judge made second appeal unnecessary.

LB note: Expensive way to make a point. She appears to be the only one who reads and understands the law, the ruling and the court filing. Don't think so? Can anyone say what the city's argument was for not releasing these reports?  (That is, the March 2010 report and the December 2009 document.  Both of those were refused by the city, and a general argument doesn't hold water, it has to be something specific to these documents. Why couldn't THESE particular documents be released?).  

Gaspar: wanted the judge to create a bright line like Maggie.

LB translation: Just like Maggie she doesn't seem to understand the city's (thus, her own) position in court. Contrary  to what city staff wanted everyone to think, the city did not claim the draft document exemption (because that was hogwash).

Read, "I don't yet realize that a bright line means giving up some of the discretion the state law gives me and once I do I'm going to have to flip-flop on this position."
We could be wrong, but have we seen Gaspar promote and act to foster an open government? All we've seen from her so far is a invintation to sue the city over her games with public policy related emails. Dear Maggie and Gaspar, do you have any suggestions for a policy change?

Did Maggie and Gaspar really want the Judge to tell them that a document that was reproduced, bound, delivered, titled FINAL and followed with an invoice for a final report should be considered a draft. I can't wait to see what they suggest for a policy!!! Because people keep forgetting, the city attorney did not claim the draft document exclusion in court (because it was B.S. to call it a draft).

If my summary sounds confusing, it's because the discussion was rambling and confusing.  Except for Teresa, each council member was clearly on the defensive.  None made a good argument for what they did.

I have to count it as a success for open government.


  1. You can't do better than the truth. Likewise, you can't withhold information from the public and it be a good thing. (No matter how stupid authorities think the public would be "misunderstanding" any given issue). But that practice is centuries old and tougher than a hazelnut to break.

  2. Thanks for being there last night, Gerald.
    If more people offered their informed opinion at council meetings, there could be positive change.
    There always seems to be the same people contributing, whether at council meetings or workshops, commissions, etc.
    Get involved to make a change for the good.
    Yea, you.

  3. I think 99.999% of Encinitans or more figure either govt will take care of business properly, or they couldn't care less. Funny how they make Council chambers so small isn't it? But hey, it's usually too big.

  4. Thanks Gerald. There can be no "bright line test" -- didn't Sabine explain that one? This is because the court must review each request on a case by case basis -- that is the law. What the City has to do is put together procedures for classifying public documents as available or not, not just asking staff what they think, they are not the elected officials who should be making the decisions. This was a huge victory for the public and its ramifications should not be ignored by the City. Other cities have procedures in place to determine whether to release documents or not, why not study those and implement some guidelines instead of simply labeling everything "draft." Sabine should be ashamed.

  5. This was posted by me in 2008. Some things do not change in this City.

    TUESDAY, JANUARY 01, 2008
    Dr. Lorri calls out Encinitas city attorney Glen Sabine
    A short editorial letter from Dr. Lorri to kick off the good vibes for 2008:

    The Brown Act, Proposition 59, and our City Attorney

    On November 2, 2004, the voters of California passed Proposition 59. The vote was 83% YES and 16% NO. The intent of the legislation was to enhance the already existing Brown Act, also know as the Sunshine Law. In summary, Prop. 59 added to the Brown Act by further stating that the press and public must have access to the workings of state and local governments and ensure accountability. Prop. 59-made transparency a constitutional duty owed to the people, to whom officials are accountable.

    At the December 5, 2007 Encinitas City Council meeting, Councilmember Jerome Stocks was allowed to “daylight” two opinions regarding the Brown Act. These opinions, deemed attorney/client privilege, were given to Mr. Stocks by our contracted City Attorney, Mr. Glenn Sabine. As I read these opinions, I was struck by several thoughts. Nowhere in Mr. Sabine’s response did he refer to Proposition 59, but instead referred to 1964 decisions made before Prop. 59 was even a law. Any citizen who had computer or a library card could have easily obtained the information Mr. Stocks was allowed to “daylight”. Therefore, Mr., Sabine spent our tax dollars giving an opinion that was outdated and certainly nothing only an attorney would know. In my opinion, Mr. Sabine did a disservice to Mr. Stocks and to the citizens of Encinitas, wasting both time and money. Perhaps it is time to review Mr. Sabine’s relationship with the City of Encinitas if this is the best information that he can provide our City.

  6. Welcome back Dr. Lorri, hopefully you've been with us for some time, just under an anon name. I bet your Anna? Anyway, welcome back and enjoy the blog in anonymity. I just wish they'd quite this ridiculous sign in crap. what a waste of time.

  7. Thank you Kevin and Gerald and Dr. Lorri!

    You are a ragtag band of rebels, but you are keeping the Empire on its toes.

    And the most important battle is yet to come. It's all about Election 2012: the people vs. the establishment!

  8. We need to get real money behind Tony next year if he decides to run again. Who else is going to run against the other two? Nice to have you back Doc.

  9. LL,

    that's your best post yet. I am glad you are a part of the conversation and most of all, I wish you and all your family the most peaceful and fulfilling life.

  10. Awe.... the good old days when the blog was free and worth reading.

  11. LL:

    If by "the other two," you mean Bond and Houlihan, neither will probably be running. It's almost guaranteed that there will be two open seats. It will be a great opportunity for change. The regular power brokers in Encinitas, of course, will put up their own candidates.

    It will take money and effort to be successful.

  12. What does money donated to municipal candidates actually pay for? Signs? I hate those stupid signs. Why would I pay for those things?

  13. We all hate the signs. They are a blight in the community. We all hate the endless misinformation mailers and unwanted robo calls. This is where we are today in local politics. It will be even more ugly next year. If you thought the last two election cycles were bad. Just wait, it will be the nastiest yet.

  14. This is what money goes to pay for: dirty hit piece mailers. That's big county Republican/developer money backing Dalager/Gaspar.

    Why would you donate? Because the good guys need to be able to respond to crap like that. Most Encinitas voters don't read the LB or go to council meetings and will vote based on what they get in the mail.

  15. Instead of giving money to the candidates I support, I'm going to just remove the signs of the candidates I don't support. So, if you see a fat, old, bald guy in your front yard pulling your sign... don't shoot me in the back. Shoot me in the front, fine, but not in the back. OK.

  16. I don't care whether I hit you in the back or front. Your gonna get hit. WC explained why you need to fund the candidates challenging the existing power base of special interests. Next time Cardiffian, contribute and financially support the right candidates. Just don't sit back and whine about how crappy our existing council is. Contribute financially and get out and spread the word. Unfortunately, 95% of the dumbass public make their ballot decisions based on signs and mailer messages. they have no clue of the screwed up mess and money grabs going on at City Hall.

  17. If you shoot me in the back shame on you. I'm just doing my part to efficiently contribute to the madness.

    What does a sign cost these days? $1-$2? Thick, shiny carboard? Hmmm... would a "printing exec" have a political advantage here?

  18. If I ran for council, I would do my best to adopt an ordinance forbiding ALL campaign signs within the city limits of Encintas - except in windows on private property. Smoke that in your pipe of code enforcement. That would do at least three things; One, endeavor to keep Encinitas beautiful and storm drains free of political refuse. Two, diminish votes from large sign believers. Three, nearly eliminate sign damage and theft.
    You can keep your liberal pumpkins and right-wing wonder women on El Camino Real though.

  19. Perhaps Andrew Audet should run.

  20. Audet, Kranz, Sodomka.

    That was easy!

  21. That is an awesome three for council. The City would be heading in the right direction, if those three were elected.


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