Weekend Rainstorm Brings With It The Irvine Sunshine Ordinance Rollout

It may have rained this weekend, but the City Council wants to bring us a proposed Sunshine Ordinance that will be heard during the City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. The purpose of a Sunshine Ordinance is to promote transparency and resident participation in city government.

Irvine Watchdog is thankful the city council is listening to its residents. We’ve said it all along – transparency, accountability, and honesty make for good government. It would have been that much more transparent if the city leaders asked for community input and established a Sunshine Ordinance Task Force to help draft the ordinance to get the best voices from our community. Collaboration is a powerful tool.

To review the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, see Item 3.1 of the City Council October 23, 2018 agenda: http://irvine.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=68&event_id=1308

Among other things, the proposed ordinance would expand review time of nearly all upcoming agenda items to 12 days – which is four times longer than California law requires. In addition, the City Council is expected to consider approval of a two-year budget cycle, up from the present one-year budget, along with a five-year financial planning program.

Below are two recent situations that may have benefited from a robust Sunshine Ordinance that has compliance measures:

    1. Land Trust – The current City council majority permitted the deconstruction of the 12 yr. old affordable housing land trust without first notifying the public. The public wasn’t notified, couldn’t ask questions, or even make their opinions known to the city council. Residents only knew about the uncoupling after the fact, and despite Councilmembers Shea and Fox requesting and approving millions of more city dollars for the Land Trust. It’s unclear if this was even lawful, but perhaps the Sunshine Ordinance would have made a difference.  The land trust is now expressly operating outside of the Brown Act requirements. Despite the Watchdog asking for months now for specific answers as to why any changes were necessary, it appears the council majority felt the land trust was too sensitive to be exposed to sunshine .
    2. Veterans Cemetery Despite a very transparent act of the voters – when 63% rejected the city council proposed “land swap” in favor of the original longstanding city/state plan for the ARDA site – this council majority stubbornly just said “no” to returning to the original path. Claiming voter confusion and expense concerns, the city instead reverted back to the drawing board via the Planning Commission, and the city staff is conducting a myriad of reviews – legal, financial, and others – for yet a 3rd or 4th alternative site, including a possible swap out of the planned golf course at the Great Park. We won’t know the results of all these studies until the work behind it is complete, and so far no update has been provided to the community. In fact, the city staff missed the Sept. deadline imposed by the Planning Commission. Could a Sunshine Ordinance make a difference on this already hot topic? 

The Watchdog is pleased the city has learned from the Measure D outcome that voters want more visibility, not less. We wholeheartedly support the spirit behind this new ordinance, and hope that it represents the return of inclusive and transparent governance.