Two Sides Of "Transparency"
This afternoon we'll deal with two sides of "transparency", a word that has taken on a life of its own locally over the past few months.
FIRST THE POSITIVE SIDE
Today Costa Mesa's Interim Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, issued a Press Release, HERE, that announced to the world that a national nonprofit watchdog group, The Sunshine Review, awarded the City of Costa Mesa with a A+ transparency grade for the quantity and quality of public information available on the website. According to the press release, this places Costa Mesa in the top 1% of the more than 6,000 municipal web sites reviewed. The press release includes links to interesting segments of the web site and the most recent Sunshine Review of the site.
A GOOD TREND
While I do not agree with many of the moves our current city council has been making, the emphasis on transparency in recent months is noteworthy. I've only been paying serious attention to city business for a decade, but we've seen more and better information in the first few months of this year - basically, since Lobdell came on board - than I can recall at any time in the past. The planned revamp of the city web site will, hopefully, make a good site even better and more user-friendly.
WIFI COMING TO COUNCIL CHAMBERS SOON
And, to add a little frosting to that cake, in his E-Briefing last week CEO Tom Hatch announced that there will soon be a wifi hotspot in the council chambers to facilitate the timely reporting by journalists, who presently struggle with slower internet connections while trying to make deadlines. This is also excellent news and yet another example of a city trying to make government more accessible. It is hoped that this new technological enhancement will be available by the September 6th meeting. And, no, it's not going to break the bank to provide this capability. Lobdell tells me that it will cost less than $2,000 for the installation - money well-spent, in my opinion.
BUT, WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD...
However, while the presentation of information to the public is admirable, the attitude of the City Council toward personal "transparency" is not. In recent weeks we've seen the mayor, Gary Monahan, attempt to stifle free speech of Terry Koken, a resident who presented himself at the speaker's podium to address his grievances in song. Combine that with councilman Eric Bever's obvious attempt to quash councilwoman Wendy Leece's ability to place items of interest to her and her constituents on the council agenda by trying to require more than one council member's approval and you see a very focused attempt to abridge the free speech guaranteed by the constitution and to disregard the opinions of thousands of voters who selected Leece - twice - for a seat on the council. And, of course, we have the actions on the dais where individual council members personally vilify and chide speakers before them in an obvious attempt to intimidate them and give them pause before they step up to address the council. This willingness to stifle dissent is more than a little upsetting. Yes, transparency is great, but, where the rubber meets the road, our municipal leaders leave much, much to be desired.
ELLIS STIFF-ARMS BERARDINO
And, in an interesting bit of timing, Orange County Employee's Association General Manager Nick Berardino - a recent appointee by Governor Jerry Brown to the Orange County Fair Board - sent out a note today announcing that Fair Board President Dave Ellis has rejected Berardino's attempt to establish a citizens oversight committee and to conduct a forensic audit of the Orange County Fair and Event Center. According to Berardino's note, Ellis refused to have the items placed on the agenda for the August Fair Board meeting.
CHECK HADES WEATHER REPORT FIRST
Berardino will appeal to the Fair Board at the August meeting to vote to place those two issues on the agenda for the September meeting. When I spoke with Berardino about this issue earlier today I encouraged him to check the weather report for Hades on that date, because - considering political make-up of the board - unless a freeze is predicted, he has no chance of getting the board to go along with him. While I think it's a good idea to have divergent viewpoints represented on any public board, Berardino is going to find himself in the same position that Leece occupies today on the Costa Mesa City Council - a lone voice against an overwhelming majority.
If you attended the Town Hall at the Neighborhood Community Center last night and drive a Scion XB - that boxy little cruiser, similar to the one in this photo - that is gold, bronze or orange in color, or you know someone with that kind of car at the meeting last night, please contact me directly using the email address on the profile page of my blog. I have very important information for you.