Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance, Measure U (November 2012)
Measure U has been under discussion in various forms for ten years and has gone through 24 drafts. It was drafted by the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance Citizens’ Committee with the assistance of the statewide organization, "Californians Aware".
The ordinance, if approved by voters, will apply to:
- The City Council
- Every city committee and commission
- The Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board
- The Board of Library Trustees
- Some private corporations that are subject to the state's Brown Act
Specific provisions of the proposed ordinance include:
- Those wishing to comment at city meetings would be granted an extra minute to talk about an issue. They would also be allowed to talk about every agenda item. At the same time, there would be an 11:00 p.m. curfew on Berkeley City Council meetings.
- Members of the public could put an agenda item on the agenda of a city council meeting by gathering 100 signatures.
- If so many people attend a city council meeting that there isn't enough space to accommodate all of them, the city council would be required to adjourn to a larger venue. The larger venue would also have to provide a live television feed of the proceedings.
- The council would have to report how members voted during closed session and they would have to vote again on closed agenda vote in public.
- Agenda packets would have to be distributed no later than 11 days before a meeting. The ability of the council to take up agenda items not on that agenda would be narrowed.
- Any record that is not restricted to the public would proactively be made available online, rather than requiring members of the public to specifically request the documents.
- An Enforcement Commission would be enacted by the Sunshine Ordinance. The Enforcement Commission would have independent legal representation and the power to sue the City.
- City officials would have to post their appointment calendars online.
Dean Metzer, chair of the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance Commission, supports Measure U. Comparing it to Berkeley's current laws about transparency, he says, "The Sunshine Ordinance has more teeth in it and will get more results".
Shirley Dean, a former mayor of Berkeley, says, "The fact that it may take two months for the commissions to make recommendations to the council is not a sunshine issue — that is the commission’s problem."
Tom Bates, the mayor of the city, says, "It’s just really a bizarre, over-the-top measure that’s put together by a lot of people who are paranoid about what’s happening in Berkeley...I am all for hearing residents speak, but when you have 100 people show up and you are trying to make a decision, you want to hear from people, and you want them to express themselves, but you have to make a decision in a timely manner."
Berkeley City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan says, "I am worried about the way it is going to slow down decision making and create more work for the staff and city."
The question on the ballot:
|MEASURE U: "Shall an ordinance be adopted: establishing new agenda and meeting requirements for the City’s legislative bodies (Council, Rent Stabilization Board and all 36 commissions), including earlier agenda deadlines; increased disclosure requirements for public records; and creating a new commission with authority to take enforcement action against the City in case of violations?"|
- Berkeleyside, "Citizens’ sunshine law to go on 2012 ballot", December 14, 2010
- Berkeley Patch, "Deadline Looms for Ballot Arguments", August 16, 2012
- Pinole Patch, "CalAware Helps Keep Government Open", March 13, 2012
- Daily Californian, "Ballot measure to increase government transparency may incur costs", October 3, 2012