Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 3, 2015

Open commission wide

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

The Wednesday night City Council meeting was all kinds of amazing, but I’m behind on other things I want to write about so that will have to wait until much later.  Probably will involve some video capture and that’s a pain in the ass, so it will take some time.  Anyway…

My goodness, I don’t think there has ever been a board or commission in Alameda that actually tried to create more work for itself for absolutely no real benefit.  The intent of the Open Government Commission during the drafting of the Sunshine Ordinance was to be a responsive body in the case that there was a concern about a lack of openness from the City of Alameda.

Since the new Council has been seated the Open Government Commission has met more times than their minimum required number of meetings.  Not surprisingly the micromanagers on that commissioner are the appointees of micromanagers on the City Council: Mayor Trish Spencer and Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese’s representatives.

There was a painful discussion following the last meeting’s painful discussion regarding cleaning up and clearing up some of the language in the Sunshine Ordinance.  Apparently this Open Government Commission thought it was their duty to remove some items; for example the prohibition on using electronic devices.  The Commission thought it would be best to “relax” this prohibition and allow people to access their personal devices in case they wanted to look something up on Google while in the meeting or something.  The only existing prohibition is that they can’t receive correspondence on their personal device while during the meeting which would require “self-policing.”

Of course it’s difficult for some elected officials to not be compelled to talk to a supporter face to face during a City Council meeting, I’m not sure how effective self-policing is going to be.

Anyway, according to one member of the Open Government the City Council would be pleased with their efforts to free the City Council from the “no electronic devices” shackle.

Now the Open Government Commission wants to divvy up the tasks of reviewing all of the agenda items prior to the meeting to see if anything is confusing.  I do remember this section in the original Sunshine Ordinance, but I thought the intent was less of a “gotcha staff your titles are too confusing for regular folks, bwahahaha!” but rather a “hey, look, we’ve reviewed a few months worth of agendas after someone complained about it and they’re right, the way you are consistently phrasing this may be a little bit confusing, you guys should change it to this.”

Because nothing says Open Government like changing language in a city ordinance that was publicly vetted and voted on by the City Council in a meeting attended by — at most — five appointed individuals and a handful of staff.



  1. Trish has been observed texting back and forth to her “minions” during meetings. I assume to get some of those amazing talking points that she comes up with.
    I’ve also heard that she texts during closed sessions, which is a whole other can of worms. Thus it is clear where the impetus to eliminate the restrictions come from. I’m fine with that, lets just make all communications utilized during staff meetings – staff reports, letters and submissions from the public, and texts to and from City Council members part of that public record. For that matter I seem to recall vaguely a report of someone filing a FOI request to get texts (in some other jurisdiction, not here) and it being granted. Too bad the only person around here who loves filling FOI requestss is one of trish’s minions.

    Comment by notadave — April 3, 2015 @ 6:52 am

  2. And a quick google search shows up:

    Apparently there is a body of legal findings that text messages, even on private devices, by mayors and city council members are part of the public record.

    Comment by notadave — April 3, 2015 @ 6:56 am

  3. I think you are using minion in the wrong direction.

    Comment by BMac — April 3, 2015 @ 8:16 am

  4. One of the reasons the committee that put together the Sunshine Ordinance inserted the language concerning electronic devices was not only because they were a distraction (just as they are when driving) but more importantly because they could be a means to violate the Brown Act. Consider that or more Councilmembers texting/emailing each other — a clear violation. Even worse, those messages conceivably might not be subject to an FOI request if those members were using their private email addresses (hello Hillary).

    Comment by rmhausman — April 3, 2015 @ 9:08 am

  5. Governor Brown just released his email that seem more like text messages from his private iPhone in response to a Public Records Act request from the Sacramento Bee. Maybe the Alameda Sun could file a similar request on Trish Spencer’s text messaging, and we can tell who is the puppet on the council. It’s all about transparency, right Ms. Mayor?

    Comment by Alan — April 3, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  6. I first wrote a complaint about this when Michelle was still doing ‘The Island’ (and BevJo was still Mayor). There are two levels of Citizenship those who are friends on some level with those in Office and those who aren’t. So those who are may be ‘friends’ on Social Media, IM or text, email or cell phone have access on one level. There are people like me who have no desire to know anyone. So if I want to communicate with someone I go through the City Website and anything I say becomes Public Record. Someone can by law gain access to this email and Post what I may have said in a Blog. However the ‘friends’ are exempt from this because they are friends.

    This all started with the Bush Administration not using White House email system. It has continued with Hillary.

    #5 I would support you fully but why stop with Trish. Let’s do our former Mayor and Councilman Bonta and ALL the rest.

    Comment by frank m — April 3, 2015 @ 11:43 am

  7. #5, good idea, but based on the last issue of the Sun, they are probably one of the puppet members, so likely they would not file an FOI that would out them. (reference the article about the Mayor rescuing the trees, and her first call being to the Sun, to make sure they witnessed her heroic actions).

    Comment by notadave — April 3, 2015 @ 12:11 pm

  8. #7, you are right about the Sun’s bias. If they are not a legitimate newspaper, they should just fold and start a blog.

    Comment by Alan — April 3, 2015 @ 1:46 pm

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