Former Vice Mayor shares view

Please don’t cripple the Open Government Commission by removing the penalty section of the Sunshine Ordinance (“Unchecked Executive Privilege at City Hall,” Jan. 30). As the Councilmember who spearheaded the formation of the Sunshine Taskforce from 2010 to 2012 that led to the adoption of the Sunshine Ordinance and formation of the Open Government Commission, I am urging the City Council to continue entrusting the commission to hear and decide complaints about the ordinance. 

The Council is being asked to remove the main enforcement tools from the commission. They need to oppose doing so. Enforcing an ordinance that protects good government and transparency is not a legislative act.

Please uphold the Open Government Commission’s Dec. 18, 2019, decision, which unanimously opposed the proposed amendment to the penalties section. The Commission’s enforcement role is essential to our democracy and the main purpose for its existence. Although the City Attorney notes that the City Council cannot delegate or grant legislative authority to the Commission, this is not the case here.

The enforcement provision is not legislative. Under the City Charter, the Council “may confer upon any board or officer” the authorities of the Commission. Eliminating the current enforcement provisions would undermine trust in our city government by allowing the Council to be its own watchdog. The Commission serves as a necessary neutral citizen arbiter. By removing the local complaint enforcement remedy, it penalizes those who cannot hire an attorney to effectively challenge a violation of the Sunshine Ordinance. 

— Lena Tam, Vice-Mayor from 2006 to 2008