Santa Ana Council Shows Tepid Support for Sunshine Law

A coalition of Santa Ana neighborhood groups has been confident that the City Council would adopt a so-called sunshine ordinance aimed at making City Hall more transparent, but so far the proposal is getting only tepid, if any, support from council members.

The coalition, known as the Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development (SACReD), has proposed eight new policies, including access to public officials’ calendars, a lobbyist registry and an oversight commission tasked with making sure government is functioning properly.

The coalition plans to begin drafting the ordinance in the coming days, said coalition spokesman Andrew Hausermann.

Councilwoman Michele Martinez said that, although she proposed such a policy in 2007, she is now against the proposal because there isn’t enough staff at City Hall to implement it. “If we had the capacity, it’s the right thing to do,” Martinez said.

And as for publishing public officials’ calendars, Martinez said she doesn’t use a City Hall calendar and would not publish her personal calendar.

When first reached for comment, Councilman Vincent Sarmiento said that “in concept and in theory” such an ordinance would be a good idea. He pointed to other strides the city has taken to make City Hall more transparent, like having a public information officer and online streaming of council meetings.

But he said he couldn’t comment on the proposed policies because he didn’t know much about them. “I haven’t seen anything yet,” he said.

Members of the group met with Sarmiento and other council members and shared with them a point-by-point outline for an ordinance, Hausermann said. “We sat down in a meeting. We walked through all the different components with them.”

When reached again with Hausermann’s assertions about the full briefing, Sarmiento would say only that he couldn’t comment on the details of the policies because he hasn’t reviewed a drafted ordinance. “We talked about many things with SACReD,” Sarmiento said. “We never spoke about an ordinance. There were just issues of concern.”

Before additional questions could be asked, Sarmiento hung up the phone.

Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez declined to comment. Mayor Miguel Pulido and council members Carlos Bustamante and David Benavides did not return requests for comment made through Public Information Officer Jose Gonzalez.

The only council member to show enthusiastic support for the idea so far has been Councilman Sal Tinajero. At recent meeting held by SACReD to explain the idea to the public, Tinajero said that the council is less conservative than those of the past and that an all-Latino council wouldn’t let special interests like developers get everything they want.

“From here on out we’re going to fight,” Tinajero said. “The decisions are going to start from the bottom — the neighborhoods.”

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