Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 4, 2020

Weight of the word

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

There’s quite a few items of interest on tonight’s City Council meeting including a Referral about considering paid parking lots at the ferry terminals.  I would totally support this by the way as long as the funds collected went into public transportation operations.

But the main item that caught my attention is the revisiting of the role of the Open Government Commission.  Specifically, City staff is recommending that the City Council remove the ability of the OGC to be able to “null and void” a City Council action and order the City Council to cure a policy that has been rendered.

As a reminder this conflict between what the City Council had set as policy for the OGC and what staff feels as though the roles of the OGC should be reared its head during the cannabis dispensary business.

The TL;dr is a citizen complaint was filed with OGC, OGC agreed with citizen that the agenda item was improperly noticed and that the vote on the ordinance should be null and voided.  Rather than just renoticing, City staff asked the OGC to reconsider its position, OGC said no.

The weird part of all this is that when the Sunshine Ordinance was crafted with the ability to null and void an action by the City Council, that was added to the language by the City Attorney at the time.

Instead of allowing the OGC to force the City Council to cure their error, the City Attorney’s office is suggesting that a gentle nudge from the OGC would be enough to encourage the City Council to reexamine their decision, from the staff report:

On a practical note, staff believes that allowing the Commission to investigate and recommend curative actions is neither “toothless” nor disempowering. Any finding of error and recommendation to correct by the Commission would be accorded serious weight by both the City Council and by courts.

Remember, the City Council and staff had the opportunity to take the initial admonition from the OGC as advisory only (“accorded serious weight”) and rather than re-notice (as the OGC recommended) the issue as a whole was kicked back to the OGC to reconsider their decision to sustain the complaint.  So clearly, in the one example of the OGC rendering a recommendation, the City Council declined to accord it serious weight.

And while the City Attorney’s office says this change would align the OGC to the powers of all other boards and commissions, remember the OGC is not structured like a typical board or commission.  Unlike other boards and commissions where the Mayor nominates and the City Council approves those nomination, the OGC allows for each City Councilperson to have their own rep on the OGC. There is no need for approval from the other City Councilmembers, it’s their decision alone.

The City Council should not fear oversight from this body, it should be encouraging it.


  1. Oversight is overrated, or so I’ve heard from those in office these days.

    Comment by MP — February 4, 2020 @ 6:53 am

  2. Let’s see..council gets caught improperly posting notice for MJ dispensaries, already investigated and cited by the Grand Jury for trying to strong arm former city manager, huge payout to cover it up…you’re right, nothing to see here.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — February 4, 2020 @ 7:43 am

  3. I’d also like to see the funds from parking go to a public transportation operations fund. Would be nice to have a free shuttle someday to provide transporation to the various ferry terminals.

    Comment by Karen Bey — February 4, 2020 @ 11:11 am

  4. City attorney claims that council is prohibited by state law from delegating legislative authority needed to invalidate an ordinance to the Open Government Commission, to which the council delegated authority to enforce the Sunshine Ordinance.

    Attorneys Paul Foreman and Robert Sullwold disagree with with the City attorney. The LWVA sent the council a letter recommending that the City retain the clause disputed by the City Attorney.

    Another option would be for the council to modify the administrative process for approving an ordinance. If a complaint that a city body, including the council, has violated the Sunshine Ordinance is filed, the action, such as development and review of an ordinance is suspended until the Open Government Commission rules on the complaint and the council has cured any violation of the Sunshine Ordinance.

    Comment by William Smith — February 4, 2020 @ 11:14 am

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