These changes come after several months of work by the Council’s Good Governance Ad Hoc Committee, that I proudly was part of, several community meetings and a collaboration with representatives of the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other good government advocates. I am happy with and supportive of both the outcome and collaborative approach the Council took. The newly adopted changes will improve transparency, remove some of the politics from the politically charged issue of redistricting, and hopefully reassure residents that their Council is seriously committed to creating open and transparent government.
At the core of the reforms are changes to the City’s ethics code. As part of the adopted changes the City will be establishing an Ethics Commission, hire an ethics compliance officer in the City Clerk’s Office, consolidate all of the City’s ethics regulations, and adopt a sunshine ordinance.
The five member Ethics Commission will be appointed to 4-year terms and must meet one of the following qualifications; administrative law judge, retired judge with a background in election law or ethics, law school ethics professor or a professional arbitrator/mediator. The Ethics Commission will meet no less than once a year and review any findings or recommendations from an independent third-party evaluator/investigator contracted by the City Clerk to conduct preliminary investigations. Based on the written recommendations of the independent third-party investigator the Ethics Commission would determine the appropriate action, administrative penalty or fine based on the recommendations.
While the next census isn’t until 2020 and redistricting won’t happen until 2021, the Council (and the public) felt it was essential that redistricting be included with any reforms put forward. The new commission will be modeled after the State’s process and will have the ability to independently redraw council district boundaries. The formal establishment of the commission will require voter appeal. The Council will submit a ballot measure for the public to consider in 2018.
At my request, the ad-hoc committee considered and ultimately adopted the creation of a Neighborhood Advisory Committee. To better educate members of the public and also solicit their feedback, the Council will begin holding multiple public forums on the City’s budget. The City’s budget is a reflection of our priorities and greater public input into that process can only be a good thing for this and future councils.
The City will also be establishing a Sunshine ordinance to centralize all city records retention, open meeting and transparency laws. Additionally, the City will establish a Public Records Manager/Ombudsman within the Clerk’s office to assist with records request, and mediate any records disputes.
While some work remains to be done before these changes will be fully implemented, the framework adopted by the Council represents significant progress toward making Sacramento a more open and transparent government.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.