On Monday, the Santa Ana City Council took a step forward towards actual transparency with the approval of a proposed Sunshine Ordinance. The proposed ordinance was first considered by the council’s Ethics Committee back on June 14, 2012. Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development (SACReD) proposed a draft ordinance that would expand public access to the meeting calendars of elected officials, lobbyist registration, budget hearings, and community participation in the review and participation in development proposals.
At a Work/Study Session in September the City Council considered six initiatives covered by the proposed ordinance.
- Site Plan Review Pre-Application Meetings
- Increased Notification of City Legislative Meetings
- RFP Evaluation Panels
- Budget Outreach and Strategic Plan
- Open Calendars
- Lobbyist Registration
Based upon those discussions city staff prepared the proposed ordinance for council consideration Monday night.
There was unanimous council agreement on some portions of the Ordinance so the proposals consideration was split into two votes, allowing for members Pulido, Alvarez, and Bustamante to cast votes in support of a portion of the ordinance. The areas with the most contention were related to the proposals covering public notice of development projects.
Two proposals in the ordinance that I find most appealing are the requirements to post the agendas of city council meetings 96 hours in advance. This is an additional day over the three days required by California’s Brown Act. The other is the requirement for the public availability of Council member and city official’s calendars related to city business. Currently, the city has denied access to such information.
If the proposed ordinance survives it’s second reading later this month it will become law. On the whole, Santa Ana’s Sunshine Ordinance is an important step forward in meeting the desire of the public for more transparency from city officials. The test of the law however will be in its implementation. The city already has ethics and conflict of interest regulations that have not been enforced by the city attorney. Most notably the requirements that council members not vote on projects where they have received a political contribution of $250 or more during the preceding year, and ban on receiving such contributions within three months of a vote.
We’ll have to wait and see what actually happens vs. what’s determined by ordinance.