By Jim Wagner and Mark Stechbart
"Sunshine Is the Best Disinfectant" on government action:
the late , 1913.
the late , 1913.
Pacifica is known for its citizen involvement and many points of view. From various blogs to coffee shops and dozens of community groups, we all engage and debate. A healthy state of affairs. We have some occasional suggestions to improve the debate. Our suggestions involve sunshine and the citizen's right to know.
City Council has to fully post all documents and meeting notices on the city website a full ten days prior to the meeting. This advanced notice will permit voters to review the actions and learn the details. Right now state law requires a 72 notice of meetings and a posting of pertinent documents on the city hall front door. This is the internet age! Would you prefer to read important documents describing city activity over your weekend when no one is around to give you more detail or take ten days to evaluate?
A ten day advanced notice would allow an article in this newspaper and the several blogs in town. Why doesn't the city take an ad out in all media to actually alert voters to agenda items so we can go to the city website for more detail?
Our thought is that giving voters more time to become informed outweighs the minor inconvenience to have staff think ahead and schedule actions for more complete disclosure. Sunshine is worth the effort.
Lack of sunshine has significant problems.
Take the City of Pacifica Task Force (CAPTF) as an example.
A very expensive proposal is pending that will require all homeowners to upgrade their homes to the latest energy and water standards when the home is sold. As proposed, this rule could become mandatory after 12-18 months of "voluntary education". Apparently when you sell your house, funds would be withheld to pay for the upgrades. The committee envisions the cost to be "limited" to a 1% cap of the sales price. The cost of this hidden tax? On a $600,000 house sale--$6,000.
The full details of this and everything else the climate committee is doing is uncertain. The climate committee withholds all reports from the public.
Contained in the climate committee Nov 2011 minutes is this stunning revelation:
"Discussion and possible action on establishing a policy on how the CAPTF (climate committee initials) shall handle sharing draft information
Timothy Cowan made a motion that individual Task Force members not disseminate preliminary draft language to members of the public and public agencies for the purposes of garnering input. Remi Tan seconded the motion. The motion was unanimously approved 6/0."
If you check the climate committee agendas, you will find this: Attachments: (Task Force only)
Attachments are deliberately not posted on the city website. Committee members now won't release the reports to the public either. A request of city staff for a public records release of these critical documents has not been answered.
Here's another suggestion. The city is thinking about replacing the retired police chief. If the pending fire tax does not pass, all city budget bets are off (deadline for submitting fire tax ballots is April 11--don't forget!)
Why rush to hire a new chief? If the city accepts the proposition that in this economy all ways of providing and funding city services must be re-evaluated and tightened, why rush? After all, the California economy is teetering on a double dip recession. Gas prices at $4.10 plus a gallon hurt everyone.
The recent action of police department to the Sheriff (joining Portola Valley and Woodside) is illuminating. contracting its
Comparing competing bids to run their department, Half Moon Bay found the Sheriff's proposal would save the city $509,723 annually while Pacifica's proposal would save it only $80,171 annually.
If Pacifica moves forward to hiring a chief, why not aggressively look outside the department for a change agent to rework all assumptions and spending levels? Maybe a seasoned captain or lieutenant from Palo Alto, Fremont or Burlingame or any other up-to-date department can bring new management tools to Pacifica. How about a citizen interview panel to provide community input into a critical service that takes a big part of the budget?
Our thoughts, new ways of running government and sunshine all. As necessary today as in 1913.
Submitted by Mark Stechbart