Commentary

10/19/2012  by Alexandra Bjerg

Santa Ana bolsters transparency efforts by approving Sunshine Ordinance

Earlier this week, the City of Santa Ana agreed to let the sunshine in. On Monday the city council approved the community driven “Sunshine Ordinance” designed to bring transparency to City Hall. 

The ordinance was approved by a 4-3 vote with Mayor Miguel Pulido and councilmembers Claudia Alvarez and Carlos Bustamante voting no. Although Pulido, Alavrez, and Bustamante supported the bulk of the measure, they objected to the provision requiring developers to hold community meetings to allow the public to review potential development project applications. Mayor Pulido argued that the additional requirements may drive developers away from the city. 

The entire council supports the other provisions included in the measure pushed by a coalition of activists known as Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development (SACReD), which are as follows:

  • Extend the Brown Act requirement to post city council meeting agendas 72 hours in advance to 96 hours ahead of time.
  • Open councilmember and some city staff calendars to the public.
  • Require budget meetings to include public input in shaping the city budget.
  • Create an oversight commission to monitor how government is functioning.
  • Mandatory lobbyist registration.
  • Publish all of the city's requests for proposals for city projects online.

The law which will go into effect 30 days from last Monday can be adjusted at anytime to improve the effectiveness of the provisions. Several councilmembers expressed a desire to assess the impact of the law one year after implementation.

“I’m very proud of what we are going to be embarking on, I’m very proud of the community for spending over 18 months working on crafting an ordinance that would provide for a more transparent, more inclusive and responsive local government,” said Councilmember David Benavides during the meeting. 

California Forward believes that the foundation of good governance is formed by civic engagement and transparency. We applaud the City of Santa Ana for its commitment to openness and accountability and its efforts to increase public involvement in city government. But no one celebrated the council’s approval more than the residents of Santa Ana themselves. 

Upon hearing the final tally of votes, supporters of the ordinance cheered and clapped so loudly that Mayor Pulido felt the need to remind the audience that “this is not a pep rally; it’s a city council meeting.” But who can blame them? The law is a real win for the city and residents alike. If only California’s other 479 cities had such spirited and dedicated cheerleaders of government transparency. 

Categories: Government

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