Poll: Is Your Local Government Open?

In light of Sunshine Week, Patch looks to promote a dialogue about open government and freedom of information.

In light of Sunshine Week 2012, South Pasadena Patch wants to converse and educate our town on the importance of open government.

The goal of Sunshine Week is to promote a dialogue about open government and freedom of information. Participants include news media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in government transparency. 

In California, there are two acts that provide open access to public meetings, The Brown Act and The Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. We also have the California Public Records Act that gives citizens access to all kinds of public information that is useful to communities.

You may recall the South Pasadena City Council for violating The Brown Act after a complaint was filed by a local resident in August 2010. 

The complaint , which led some to question whether the decision was improperly made behind closed doors. 

"Although the Brown Act allows for closed sessions in specific, narrowly drawn exceptions, there is a presumption in favor of public access," the Public Integrity Division told Patch at the time of the investigation.

 “We do not make any factual findings with regard to the alleged conduct because there is no independent source of evidence of the subject matter of the closed session discussions involved.” 

“However, the circumstances we reviewed provide a sufficiently reasonable concern as is explained below,” she continued.  

There have been other issues, as well, where South Pas residents have cited a lack of transparency in local government: the driving range extension debacle, the Fair Oaks Corridor Improvement Project and, most recently, 

Nevertheless, South Pas local government has taken strides recently to open up the lines of communication. Just Tuesday night, And in January, it began streaming all City Council meetings online, hosting a 6-month archive on its site.  

So today, Patch asks: How would you rate your local government's openness to public access: Excellent, Avererge or Poor? What does your local government do well? Where do you feel there is room for improvement? What suggestions do you have for things to run differently? 

Take our Patch poll, and weigh in in comments! 

This year Sunshine Week is co-sponsored by ASNE and the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press and many other media industry partners, including Patch. The week is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami, along with the ASNE Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and others.  

spidra March 14, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I think you misunderstand me. What I'm asking is how did the new(ish) community garden zoning code get added in the first place? What was the process there, how public was it, and how much public involvement was there? With the sewer thing...having the money to do maintenance is key, of course. But how much maintenance was done in those years? What sort of maintenance? Has there been any independent assessment of where So Pas went wrong and steps it can take (in addition to sewer rate increase) to fix the problem and prevent it happening again? Why were there 7 public works directors in 9 years? Is the vetting process flawed? Are work conditions and/or pay so bad that it's easy for other cities to headhunt our directors? Anyway, thanks for the back & forth. I appreciate that you're willing to entertain these issues.
Linda Lynch March 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Great questions and hopefully the issues will be addressed.
spidra March 15, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Given what a big issue transparency was in the recent City Council election, I'm surprised more people haven't commented on this article with their take on things.
Ron Rosen March 16, 2012 at 12:28 AM
@Spridra The feeling at City Council meetings is night and day to what it was before. It's refreshing. The current budget meetings are an effort to get people more involved in understanding how the city works and to help decide how money can and should be spent. Things have changed a lot. More to come.
Andy Krinock March 16, 2012 at 01:21 AM
I believe transparency in government means that key city employees and council members should answer questions raised by the press, citizens and other stakeholders. Explainations to inquires should be clear and "controversial l" actions or decisions fully explained to stakeholders. Transparency does not mean having 3 minutes to ask a question on complicated issues. Key staff and councilmembers should be available to answer letters and e-mails to inquiries, periodically meet with stakeholders and otherwise promote transparency. If questons are viewed as not relevant then that should be communicated to the stakeholder. Will this take extra work? Absolutely. That is all part of the job, if one is to busy with their private job as a council person perhaps they should not hold the office. Perhaps it is too early to judge the current council because it is early in their terms. My historical experience has been unsatisfactory, perhaps because there are no current standards on how transparency can be improved and agreed to by the parties.


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