EOS Announces Effort to Increase Time for Citizen Comments at Council Meetings

MEDIA RELEASE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Craig K. Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento

phone: (916) 718-3030; e-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org

Dennis Neufeld, Volunteer, Eye on Sacramento

phone: (916) 539-1054; e-mail: d-neufeld@comcast.net

Date: February 12, 2013, 4:30 p.m.

 

EOS Announces Effort to Increase Time for Citizen Comments at Council Meetings

Survey Results: Sacramento Has Among Tightest Time Limits in Region and State

 

At tonight’s meeting of the Sacramento city council (6:00 p.m.), Eye on Sacramento plans to launch a dialogue with the council and the broader community on increasing the amount of time in which citizens can speak to their elected officials at council meetings.

“In January 2009 the city council reduced the speaking time for citizens at council meetings from three minutes to just two minutes,” said EOS President Craig Powell. “We are concerned that this change in a decades-old rule, while well intentioned, has served to seriously degrade the quality of public comments at council meetings and diminished the ability of citizens to have a meaningful impact on their own government,” Powell added.

“The average citizen spends the first 30 seconds calming down, clearing his throat, politely introducing himself, thanking the council for the opportunity to address them and placing his speaking notes on the podium. That same speaker usually spends the final 30 seconds of his allotted two minutes watching a blinking red light (warning him that his time is about to expire) and scrambling to get his well-planned message across in a torrent of jumbled words before being told to sit down. That’s not meaningful democracy, nor is it a reasonable opportunity to petition one’s government for a redress of grievances, as mandated by the First Amendment. It is far too often ineffective chaos.” Powell concluded.

Powell also released an EOS study of public comment time limits in various cities in the region and California (study attached), demonstrating that Sacramento has among the tightest comment time limits in the county, the region, among similarly-sized California cities and among its largest cities (with the sole exception of Oakland). The study was prepared by EOS volunteers Dennis Neufeld and Sarah Foster.

“We will be releasing more research on this issue in the coming weeks, including an analysis of the impact an increase in comment time limits would likely have on the duration of council meetings. We’ll also be releasing a specific proposal for expanding the public’s opportunities to talk to their elected officials while not unduly lengthening council meetings,” Powell said.

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PUBLIC COMMENT TIME LIMITS

BY CITY 

CITY  ON NOT on CONSENT POPULATION COMMENTS
AGENDA AGENDA CALENDAR
SACRAMENTO COUNTY CITIES
Sacramento Two Two Two* 489,488 *Cumulative minutes for all Consent Items
Elk Grove Three Three Three 153,015
Citrus Heights Five* Five* Five* 89,000 *1-minute if many speakers.
Folsom Three Three Three 72,203
Rancho Cordova Three Three Three 65,606
Galt Three Three Three 25,000
NEARBY CITIES, COUNTIES, AGENCIES
Roseville Three Three Three 118,788
Fairfield Five* Five* Five* 108,321 *3-minutes if 25+speakers
Davis Three Three Three 65,622
Woodland Three** Three** Three* 55,806 *Rare; **Have no timer
W. Sacramento Three Three Three 49,045
Auburn No Limit* No Limit* No Limit* 13,330 *Whatever is “reasonable”
Placerville Three Three Three 10,383
Yolo County Three Three Three 201,709
Placer County Three Three Three 357,138
El Dorado Cnty Three Three Three 182,019
Sac County Three Five Three* 1,436,105 *First talk to involved Supvr.
SACOG Three Three Three
Reg Sanitn Dist Three Three Three
SIMILAR-SIZED CALIF CITIES
Fresno Three Three Three 510,365
Long Beach Three Three Three 462,257
Oakland Two* One** One 390,724 *1-minute if many speakers.
Bakersfield Three Three Three 347,483 **Max 15-minutes for all.
Anaheim Three* Three Three 336,265 *Legislative Issue, 5-minutes.
Santa Ana Three Three Three 324,528
Riverside Three Three Three 303,871
Stockton Three Three Three 291,707
OTHER CALIFORNIA CITIES
Los Angeles Two Two Two 3,792,621
San Diego Three Three Three 1,307,402
San Jose Two Two Two 945,942
San Francisco Three Three Three 805,235
OREGON CITIES
Portland Three Three* Three 583,776 *Max 1-time/month
Eugene Three* Three* Three* 156,185 *Preference to city residents.
Salem Three Three Three 154,637

 

Editor’s note: The EOS blog is a regular analysis and commentary on local government.  To receive new blogs click sign me up.

City of Sacramento Receives “F” Grade on National Survey of Transparency of Major U.S. Cities

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Contact: Craig Powell, President, Eye on Sacramento (EOS)
phone: (916) 718-3030; e-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org
website: www.eyeonsacramento.org
Date: January 30, 2013; 10:50 a.m. 

City of Sacramento Receives “F” Grade

National Survey of Transparency of Major U.S. Cities

A report published this week by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) graded 30 major U.S. cities on how well “checkbook-level” information is presented on-line to citizens. The study – the first of its kind assessing local government transparency – found that Sacramento finished 29th out of 30 cities surveyed, earning an “F” grade in financial transparency.

In an interview with Governing magazine, PIRG senior analyst, Phineas Baxandall, said, “Transparency is really important for good fiscal management and checking against corruption so citizens can feel confident in how their governments spend tax dollars.”

PIRG evaluated each city’s transparency efforts by measuring a series of 12 criteria. Part of the assessment looked at the breadth of information provided, such as vendor payments, detailed tax expenditures and budgets. The report also scored the extent to which the information was readily available, emphasizing centralized websites, searching capability and downloadable data.

On June 12, 2012, Eye on Sacramento asked the Sacramento City Council to adopt ten Transparency Reforms which would greatly increase city residents’ access to their city government and help restore trust in the integrity of city government leaders, including one on “checkbook-level” transparency:

EOS Reform #2: Post the city’s check book and other payments on-line in Excel format so that the public can see for themselves how every city dollar (general fund and enterprise funds) is being spent. City activists and enterprising local media will pour over these records and seek out explanations for payments that strike them as potentially inappropriate. When city check writers know that every check they write and payment they authorize will be scrutinized by the public, they will be on their best behavior.

To date, not one of the EOS transparency proposals have been adopted by the city council. EOS President Craig Powell said today, “Our hope is that the “F” grade given to Sacramento by PIRG this week will awaken the city council from its slumber and motivate it to take the immediate actions necessary to open up its books to the city taxpayers who pay its bills. Sacramentans deserve much, much better from its city leaders.”

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City of Sacramento, Department of Utilities Rate Increases

Pipe Dreams: Sacramento’s water rates will keep climbing

Eye on Sacramento’s Projection of Our Monthly City Utilities Bills Over the Next 15 Years

Sac City Utility to Shackle Rate Payers With $3.9 Billion. That’s $35,000 per Household

Follow The Money

Pipe Dreams, Three-year water and sewer rate hikes would be just a down payment

EYE ON SACRAMENTO’S FINAL REPORT – City of Sacramento Water and Sewer Rate Hikes and Infrastructure Repair Plan

 

New Policy, Watchdog Group Launched in City of Sacramento

For Immediate Release
Date: May 7, 2011
Contact:  Eye on Sacramento
Contact Info: 916-403-0592, contact@eyeonsacramento.org

Last Tuesday, Eye on Sacramento (EOS)– a nonpartisan, nonprofit Sacramento-based local government watchdog/policy organization – announced its official launch. At 6:00 p.m. this Thursday, May 12, 2011, Eye on Sacramento President Craig Powell and EOS Executive Vice-President Greg Hatfield will appear before the Sacramento City Council and formally introduce EOS and its mission, programs and officers to Mayor Johnson and the Council.

“The mission of Eye on Sacramento is to work for integrity, transparency and effectiveness in Sacramento local government by educating the public and promoting the broad public interest,” according to the group’s mission statement. According to Powell, “EOS will maintain a watchful eye on the actions and policies of local Sacramento government. EOS will also originate and advance smart policy solutions to challenging and seemingly intractable local government problems – solutions which promote the broad, general interest of all Sacramento residents and neighborhoods. Additionally, EOS will give voice to the concerns and aspirations of Sacramento residents and neighborhoods through neighborhood outreach efforts and the use of modern communication tools.”

Eye on Sacramento is a nonprofit public benefit corporation led by a 15-member Board of Directors. EOS representatives will maintain regular contact and engagement with local elected officials, community groups, and individuals in its ongoing efforts to assess public priorities, educate the public on local government affairs and advocate common-sense solutions to pressing local issues. “Our Board has made the strategic decision to focus our attention in our first year of operations on the mounting problems facing the City of Sacrament,” Powell added.

Please visit www.EyeOnSacramento.org for additional information. Follow us on Twitter @EyeOnSacramento; find us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/EyeOnSacramento; e-mail us at contact@eyeonsacramento.org. For media interviews, contact EOS President Craig Powell (e-mail: craig@eyeonsacramento.org; phone: (916) 718-3030).