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Top 10 Reasons to Put Open Governance Up to a Vote

Top 10 Reasons to Put Open Governance Up to a Vote

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Published by Terry Francke

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Published by: Terry Francke on Mar 03, 2012
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02/02/2014

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Top 10 Reasons to Put Transparency at City Hall up to a Vote

Check actual language of the OGA sections at http://dixonsunshine.com

1. Signing this petition gives the people the chance to decide how open City Hall meetings and records should be. They can vote No if they like, but the important thing is—they can vote. The City Council refused to put this ordinance on the ballot. But you and fellow citizens can do it with your signatures. 2. The Open Governance Ordinance (OGA), once approved by a vote of the people, could be repealed or even amended only by another vote of the people. No future city council could dilute or remove its initiative-created rights. 3. The City Council has had more than a year to pass a similar sunshine law but has delayed consideration of the proposals and dragged out tedious“workshops” to examine the provisions line by line. At the recent rate, approval of a meaningful ordinance might take another year if it came at all. 4. The OGA will put teeth in the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. Not only will it tighten up the rules supporting transparency in Dixon, but to make sure they are complied with it will: • allow citizens to sue to enforce the OGA as well as the state laws—challenging illegal meetings or demanding access to public records; and • allow citizens who win these cases to have their attorney’s fees paid (under court order) by those really responsible—not the taxpayers but the city attorney if his or her advice led to the violation, or the city official(s) who got good advice from the city attorney but disregarded it.
See Section 12.01.30

5. The OGA will provide ongoing oversight to ensure that its requirements are carried out and needed improvements are highlighted. The Open Governance Commission, an unpaid threemember panel of Dixon residents with no close ties to City employees or officials, appointed to four-year terms by the City Council, will act as an ombudsman to take and resolve complaints about failure to comply with the OGA and to recommend to the Council any needed changes in particular practices, policies or even the OGA itself.
See Section 12.01.32

6. The OGA will keep top city staff from pursuing their own agendas behind the scenes. While nothing indicates current employees need this restriction, it will be there to prevent future problems by prohibiting: • staff members, elected officials or their agents from lobbying the City Council or other municipal bodies behind the scenes, one on one or in small groups, to either “pitch or ditch” a particular proposal headed for consideration by the body; and • staff members acting as the Council’s bargaining agent in labor-management negotiations when the staffer’s pay or benefits are linked to those of the employee organization.
See Sections 12.01.12, 12.01.16 A

7. The OGA will enhance and protect citizens’ interests to hear about, attend and be heard at public meetings by requiring: • meetings to be video streamed and held only between 6:30 and 10 on weekday evenings; See Section 12.01.05 • special meetings off the regular schedule to be held only to address urgent matters that can’t wait for a regular meeting, to address matters too complex and time consuming for a regular meeting, to meet outside the city if otherwise permitted, or to move to a larger capacity venue to accommodate expected heavy attendance; See Section 12.01.07 A

• special meetings to be preceded by an agenda notice posted 72 hours in advance; See Section 12.01.07 B • agenda packet items to be posted on the City’s website as soon as completed, even before distribution to the City Council or other body it was written for; See Section 12.01.08 A • members of the public to be permitted to address the City Council or other official body on agenda items without time constraints or self-identification, and to use projectors or other presentation tools if city staff is given adequate notice; See Section
12.01.10

• a request by 20 or more Dixon registered voters to be considered as a demand to add an item of their choosing to a future meeting agenda; See Section 12.01.06 A • explanations to be given as to why an item on a posted agenda was withdrawn from consideration; See Section 12.01.06 B and • iPads and other personal digital communication devices to be used by members of the City Council or other official bodies during meetings only if connected to a display showing the public how the device is being used. See Section 12.01.09 8. The OGA will reduce needless secrecy in closed sessions at official meetings by requiring: • the city attorney, in the case of pending litigation, or bargaining agents for the City Council in the case of employee or real property negotiations, to precede any closed session on these topics with a factual updating in open session on the status of negotiations to date with the opposing parties, sharing with the public whatever the opposing parties already know; See Section
12.01.13 B

• members of the City Council or other official body to have the chance to discuss or comment, and to answer the public’s questions, on the need for any closed session before it is held, after any litigation or negotiation status report; See Section 12.01.13 A

• after any closed session where no final action was taken, a report by the City Council or other official body on other directions given to staff, and any vote or abstention on the matter, followed by a time for public comment and a public re-vote; See
Section 12.01.13 C

• audio recording of all closed sessions, with the recordings to be archived and released to the public when the reason for the lawful secrecy has expired; See Section 12.01.13 D • an open session discussion of the desirability of any real property transaction that the City Council is contemplating, prior to any final decision; See Section 12.01.14 • a public statement by the City Attorney of the existing facts and circumstances that indicate a serious enough threat of litigation against the City to warrant a closed session consultation, plus release of any communications showing the threat; See Section
12.01.15

• open session discussions only concerning the City Manager’s performance goals and objectives or proposed compensation, and release of any related records; See Section 12.01.16 B and C and; • a bargained agreement with an employee organization to be released, prior to a final City Council vote, at the same time it is presented to the organization. See Section 12.01.16 D 9. The OGA will enhance and protect citizens’ ability to obtain and understand information about City government by requiring: • major documents to be posted on the City’s website in addition to being on file in the City Clerk’s office and in the reference section of the Dixon Public Library, for example: •• Dixon Municipal Code; •• Building Code; •• General Plan and Area Plans; •• Zoning Ordinance; •• Landmarks Preservation Ordinance;

•• Records Retention Schedule; •• Council Rules of Procedure; •• Conflict of Interest Code; •• Statements of Economic Interest; •• Active city agreements/contracts; and •• Officials’ appointment calendars; See Section 12.01.27 • creation by the City Clerk over a year’s time (and permanent maintenance and updating thereafter) of a city records Research Index showing which documents, kept in which departments and offices, contain which information, for how long, and for what purpose, to be posted on the City’s website in addition to being on file in the City Clerk’s office and in the reference section of the Dixon Public Library, also showing which records are “open” (freely accessible), “partly open” (containing some accessible information), or “closed” (disclosure prohibited), plus the legal basis for the latter two categories. See Section 12.01.28 • systematic logging and tracking by the City Clerk of all requests for City information, and the responses given, with an annual report in the budget document of how completely and how soon the requests were processed; See Section 12.01.19 A and C • responses to records access requests by email (if an address is provided) acknowledging receipt of the request within one business day, with reasonable effort to make documents available, or explain why they are not available, within two business days;
See Section 12.01.19 B

• responses declining to release records to be supported not only by reference to a legal exemption from disclosure but by any examples of how disclosure would expose the City to civil or criminal liability; See Section 12.01.19 E • a limit of five cents per page for copies of public records unless the City can prove its costs of reproduction exceed that amount; See Section 12.01.20 and • prosecution as a misdemeanor of any hindrance to the release of public information by falsely denying that it exists in the City’s possession. See Section 12.01.19 D

10. The OGA will reduce needless secrecy in withheld public records by requiring: • draft versions of a policy, action or agreement proposed for approval by the City Council or other official body, and related communications among staff, elected officials and others to be released for public review 15 days before presentation to the body at a meeting; See Section 12.01.21 • all job applications to be public when submitted; See Section
12.01.23

• attorney communications with city officials to be public concerning: •• a conflict of interest, actual or potential; •• a proposed ordinance or other city rule or administrative action; •• ongoing negotiations with those filing a legal claim against the City; and •• analysis of, liability under or advice on compliance with the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act, the Political Reform Act, any governmental ethics code, or the Open Governance Act; See Section 12.01.22 • records of police investigations to be available to the public to the extent permitted by state or federal law when: •• any resulting prosecution has been through the courts and the case is resolved; or •• the district attorney announces that a prosecution will not be sought; or •• the statute of limitations for prosecuting the case has expired. See Section 12.01.24 A and B • statistical information without identities to be compiled and released by the police department concerning the number, type and resolution of citizen complaints alleging officer misconduct, and any discipline imposed. See Section 12.01.24 C

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