Ain’t no sunshine in Sacramento government ethics

Good government. Accountability. Transparency. Ethics. Let's call all this GATE, a hot-topic acronym in Sacramento this year.

Months ago, concerned citizens started holding town halls to discuss GATE reforms. They were motivated after Measure L, which they say would have implemented half-assed changes. In fact, the mayor and his coterie are still working toward their own tweaks, but this is all going on behind the scenes, in “ad hoc committees”—an irony not lost on these citizens.

And people keep knocking on the GATE. This past Sunday, Sacramento Bee executive editor Joyce Terhaar dinged City Hall, demanding more transparency and communication when it comes to her reporters' public-records requests.

All this talk—is the city even listening?

Doesn't appear so. Last week, SN&R contributor Joe Rubin acquired a city email announcing a new policy when it comes to deleting records. These changes were made behind closed doors, without public dialogue. Now, the city will delete all records older than two years; the new policy is set to go into place July 1.

The city isn't doing anything illegal, though. An attorney from the California Newspapers Publishers Association told me that most cities keep records for less than two years.

But shouldn't the city hold conversations about changing its records-retention policy with the public? Shouldn't the GATE be wide open?

Rubin, who exposed mismanagement (and worse) with the city's costly water-meter program last year (See “Flushing money,” SN&R Feature, November 13, 2014), says the new rules will make it harder, if not impossible, to do his job.

All this reminds why we need ethics and good-government commissions at City Hall. We need sunshine on city decision-making. The public deserves to know. They've been demanding as much for months.

Are city GATEkeepers that tone deaf?