More Transparency Coming to Santa Ana, Group Says

The Santa Ana City Council appears ready to pass a law that would increase transparency at City Hall, said members of a coalition pushing for the law at a community forum Thursday.

The proposed sunshine ordinance, which has yet to be drafted, would, among other things, require the city to publish council members’ meeting calendars, create a lobbyist registry and require meetings with the community before some development projects, said members of the Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development (SACReD), a coalition largely composed of neighborhood representatives and community activists.

“Through participation we can resolve a lot of the issues that we have and have a brighter future for Santa Ana,” said Ana Urzua, lead community organizer with Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, which is part of the SACReD coalition.

The council’s ethics committee will consider the proposal next week, Urzua said. After that, the city Council will consider the proposal at a regular meeting and direct staff to draft the ordinance, she said. The ordinance could be adopted by July, Urzua said.

SACReD members claim to have persuaded council members to adopt seven of the eight components of the group’s proposal. The one item council members do not seem to favor, SACReD acknowledged, is a proposed oversight commission that would monitor how well developers deliver on promised benefits to the community.

If SACReD members are correct, they have made significant progress from two months ago, when most council members showed at best tepid support for the proposal. Councilwoman Michele Martinez had said that while she proposed a similar policy in 2007, it would be too much additional work for an already understaffed City Hall. Martinez added that she didn’t use the public calendar and would be against publishing her personal calendar.

The city currently doesn’t release council members’ meeting calendars, a policy that, according to state open government expert Terry Francke, does not comply with California’s Open Records Act. A recent Voice of OC request for Mayor Miguel Pulido’s meeting calendar was denied.

The group’s newfound optimism notwithstanding, Councilman Sal Tinajero has been the only council member to strongly support the proposal.

It is important to implement the proposal “so that those who are in power never get out of control,” Tinajero remarked at Thursday’s forum.

The coalition has yet to release a detailed proposal, but the following is a rundown of the group’s proposed policies:

  • Premeetings about upcoming development projects.
  • Increased notification to residents and businesses regarding potential development projects.
  • Public access to the city’s requests for proposals for city projects.
  • A mandatory lobbyist registry.
  • Access to council members’ meetings calendars.
  • An oversight commission to ensure government is functioning properly.
  • Budget outreach meetings to include the public in shaping the city budget.
  • Public priority hearings to give residents the opportunity to let city leaders know what city programs are most important to them.