This week the Encinitas city council directed staff to create a red-line version of the general plan update. That way people can see what edits have been made. It would be great if those proposed edits were also explained/justified so the council can evaluate the proposals (and the public can assess the quality of their decision making). This is great news.
It goes to show that sometimes just getting an issue out of the backroom and into the light will force the council to do the right thing. Points for Gaspar, Muir, Barth and Bond (Stocks was on vacation).
Background: Several citizens had been asking top city staff and Icafona (from MIG, the city's million dollar consultant), for over a year, to make it simple for the public to see what changes to the general plan were being proposed. Points also go out to those pesky citizens who cared enough to give up their time and energy for a cause which comes with no perks.
Based on the LA Times reporting and editorials:
The bullet train, which will not pay for itself or provide economic efficiencies in our state, but will likely stimulate more sprawl that swallows up the State's hardest to outsource sector (HIGHLY productive regional agriculture) continues to get billions in funding. Don't worry though, bond debt is paying for the train so we don't have to pay for it;) That's good, because the State can't afford open government and has postured to suspend the Brown Act.
The Brown Act provides MINIMUM requirements for cities to make decisions in public. Encinitas Council Member Barth has asked that the issue be put on the next council agenda. This is good. The city council has already sent a clear message to the citizens of Encinitas that they value open government and follow the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. In 2009 the council, minus Barth, voted against considering a Sunshine Ordinance (a collection of laws governing access to meetings and public documents). Instead, the council made a strong statement that they respect open government and follow the open government laws (laugh track here). They directed staff to announce this to the internet surfers of the world:
The City is committed to public engagement and transparency in public policy decision making. We recognize the value of open government, and know the City exists to serve the good will of the public. Information on open government and your rights are provided below.
Classic Encinitas ploy example: The staff report for the 2009 meeting was incomplete. It failed to include dozens of provisions in other cities' sunshine ordinances, when comparing Encinitas practices to these other cities. It wasn't an innocent oversight as the staff member who created the staff report's tables had created a more extensive set of comparisions which was not shared with the public. Open government?
When the City posted that their strong message on the website the were illegally withholding numerous documents that various groups were seeking. Public statements were one thing and actual actions another.
When Barth says, "It is critical that the city of Encinitas send a clear message to the citizens that we value open government and public participation," I hope that means taking action, beyond making nonbinding statements.
California cities that have comprehensive sunshine ordinances still have to operate in the daylight even if Sacramento suspends the Brown Act, because their local laws require it. Maybe this is a good time to fold the Brown Act into the the City Ordinances. Maybe this is a good time to create a sunshine ordinance, and it would be especially nice if we create one that provides checks and balances, so people don't have to continue to go to court with city hall just to get stupid reports on road conditions released.