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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Why Are They So Scared of Transparency?

Tonight, with Mayor Foster’s behind the scenes urging, the seven other members of the City Council killed any consideration of several political reforms I put on the agenda.

The reforms – which are in place in several other cities (San Jose, Santa Ana, Los Angeles), would:
1. Make the Mayor and City Council members disclose if they are communicating with a lobbyist or contractor or developer at council before a vote on an issue impacting that lobbyist or contractor or developer. This would let the public know of communications that effect votes.

2. Make the text messages and emails generated by the Mayor and the City Council on their personal phones and computers public records if the contents are about official city business.

3. Ban political contributions from lobbyists, contractors, developers and those bidding on business with the city. The federal and state government and several cities have this ban in place.

Let me be clear. My proposal was to send these items to the Council Elections Oversight Committee so they could be discussed and worked out. This council wouldn’t even let the ideas be discussed.

What a contrast between this Mayor and the Mayor in San Jose, Chuck Reed who made open government a major platform of his administration. Mayor Reed posts his calendar on line as does his Chief of Staff and all of the Council members. Mayor Reed called and got the City Council to enact policy three years ago making elected officials' personal email and text messages about city business public records subject to disclosure.

How sad that several of the council members who wouldn’t let these items get further discussed are the first to tweet and facebook and email how much they support transparency in government.

Taxpayers deserve to know what their elected officials are doing and who they are communicating with. Playing the game that as long as the communication isn’t on a city phone or computer that no one should see it, is insulting to voters who understand that technology makes it possible for instantaneous conversations and that those conversations should be public.

What is so special about elections in Long Beach that we can’t step up and ban contributions to political campaigns and officeholder accounts from lobbyists, contractors, developers and those bidding doing business with the City? The federal and state levels and several California cities ban these contributions to prevent the practice and appearance of “pay to play.” Long Beach needs to do the same.

Since the Mayor would not allow discussion of the issue after it was killed and no councilmember dare speak why they were against these political reforms, the public was not given the opportunity to hear, just what they were all so scared would happen if we made these communications public and stopped the flow of political contributions. Democracy perhaps?

Save Station 18

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