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Alameda City Council Argues Over Sunshine Ordinance Objectives

By Erica Madison

Last week, the new Sunshine task force presented a list of public priorities to Alameda City Council; this is the first step in preparing a Sunshine Ordinance to be ready in September. The only obstacle standing in their way is in helping City Council remember what the purpose of the ordinance is.

Supposedly the purpose of a Sunshine Ordinance is to help improve citizens’ access to City information.

On February 16, 2010 Alameda City Council members created a sunshine task force. These five people were directed to go out into the public and create a list of issues the public deemed important.

The Sunshine Task force held their first meeting on March 24, 2010 in the Main library.

On April 20, 2010 Sunshine task force chair Gretchen Lipow presented the team’s findings. The Council members, Mayor Beverly Johnson, and Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, were dissatisfied with the list calling it “too comprehensive.”

They didn’t understand why the list was so long.

“Some of the things on this list have nothing to do with the ordinance” said Mayor Johnson.

Along with the task of getting public opinion, the task force was also given five priorities that the City Council felt needed to be addressed.

Mayor Johnson and Vice Mayor deHaan were expecting an ordinance that was based upon these five priorities.

However, Councilmembers Lena Tam and  Marie Gilmore argued that more attention to public opinion was needed.

“We want to maximize the opportunity for the public to have input,” said Councilmember Gilmore.

The task force needs to continue getting community input,” said Councilmember Tam.

The questions regarding what City Council had asked the task force to do, led to an even more serious question from Vice-Mayor deHaan. The Vice-Mayor was unclear as to whether the Sunshine Ordinance was a series of ordinances or one major ordinance.

“There is no such thing as a sunshine ordinance. This is a generic term for a subset rules and regulations,” said the City Attorney Teresa Highsmith.

The meeting ended with Council directing the Sunshine task force to trim the fat off of their list and to find an ordinance from another city and modify it for Alameda City.

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