So there is yet another article in the Alameda Magazine about Mayor Trish Spencer. It’s not available on line, but let me give you the nutmeat of the piece and more details provided once the article goes on line. However you really should be thanking the Alameda Magazine for their in-depth reporting since the Alameda Journal is spread too thin and the Alameda Sun, well, it’s the Alameda Sun.
The title “Little Miss Sunshine” so, as you can guess, this will be about the Sunshine Ordinance.
Basically during the training for the Mayor’s Economic Advisory panel which the members were trained on all Sunshine Ordinance and Brown Act goodness a question was asked about whether or not emails between the members of the economic advisory panel were considered public record. The short answer is, they are.
But here’s what Trish “Transparency” Spencer told the panel to do in order to avoid making her communications with City Staff open to the public: pick up the phone. Here’s the exact quote from the Alameda Magazine piece:
“Personally, I don’t put anything in an email that I’m not comfortable having the whole world see. So personally, if I have a question for staff, I’m much more likely to pick up the phone and call staff and ask the question that way, and there are things like that that can make it work.”
She later urged, “Get your information that way.”
So what Trish Spencer is urging her own Economic Advisory panel to do is to skirt around public record requirements by ensuring that they don’t leave a paper trail that can be requested by the public in the future.
But should we really be surprised? After all this is the same elected official that appointed to the Open Government Commission a person who opined that the City Council should be able to deliberate behind closed doors prior to the City Council meeting for the sake of expediency, exactly:
I am the Vice-Chairperson of the City of Alameda Open Government Commission that is charged with monitoring the Brown Act and the City’s Sunshine Ordinance.
The opinion expressed below is my own and not an expression of the Commission.
I have been active in communicating with City Council members for the past year and a half and have felt very constrained in trying to buld a consensus because of the the inability of more than two members to discuss an issue. How the legislature can impose such a draconian limitation on local officials while exempting themslves from the same requirements defies any logical explanation. There should be no restriction on any number of council members meeting informally to discuss any matter or even to propose specific legislation and work out the languqge before it reaches the public meeting stage, so long as the the final vote is taken in public after the required prior notice of presentation and public input.
The current system has Councilmembers acting as islands, rather than intelligent candidly interacting human beings. I fully agree with you that it leads to Council being dependent on staff who have no retriction whatsoever on their discourse with eachother. It also leads to interminably long council meetings where language is developed on the fly in the course of the meeting. The late night meetings are much more damaging to the notion of transparency than unlimited private discourse between council members. [emphasis added]
If these are the folks advising Trish Spencer, it’s no wonder that she takes the view that her communications should be made so that they avoid public scrutiny.
The audio from that meeting supposedly will be available at this link but it’s not up yet.