Council Call for Bond Vote Was Illegal
When the city council put Measure N, a $148 million bond issue for a new palace library on the ballot, it did so in violation of laws requiring sufficient notice to the public.
If the council had followed the law, public protest at the July 18, 2006 council meeting might have shown councilmembers the folly of trying to sell Oakland residents this huge, wasteful bond issue.
Although discussion of possible uses for Kaiser Center had gone on for some time, the specific proposal now on the ballot emerged only at the last minute.
Among the options generated were no less than eleven library proposals, ranging in estimated cost from $117 million to more than twice that sum.
Native Oakland resident David Mix has noticed that the option eventually put on the ballot, Option 6, did not appear on the original agenda for the council's July 18, 2006 session. That agenda, like all of them, must appear at least ten days before the meeting as required by the City's sunshine ordinance, section 2.20.080.
Option 6 only appeared on a supplement to the agenda, no earlier than four days before the July 18 meeting. Option 6 also did not appear on the ten-day agenda notices for the July 11 meeting of the council's Life Enrichment Committee, nor the July 13 meeting of the Rules Committee.
In fact, Option 6 only emerged on July 11 during the meeting of the Life Enrichment Committee. That was one week, not ten days, before the council meeting that took the illegal action of putting the bond issue on the ballot.
Mr. Mix asks that you join a complaint on this matter that has been filed with the City's public ethics commission. He says, "Whatever action the ethics commission takes on this issue will depend in large part on how many complaints it receives. Without question, it is a numbers game: the more complaints the commission receives, the less likely it will try to sweep it under the rug."
All you need do is call David Mix at 339-1519. He can take your name and information over the phone. It's that simple!
Meanwhile, we need to keep showing our friends and neighbors that this bond issue is a terrible waste of money and an outrageous denial of Oakland's real needs for public safety and basic services.
Vote No on the palace library bonds!
– Aug. 7, 2006
Law Broken, But No Consequences
The staff of the Public Ethics Commission did a study of the events leading up to the city council putting Measure N, the palace library bonds, on the November ballot. Their report finds that the city council and City Hall staff violated the sunshine law, but there are no real consequences.
According to the commission report, the July 11, 2006 meeting of the council's Life Enrichment Committee did not receive the $148 million bond option with sufficient public notice. The committee took up this option illegally.
However, it does not matter, says the commission staff. Why? The full council meeting that followed on July 18 started an hour and a half early, so it qualified as a special rather than a regular meeting. And guess what, the sunshine rules for special meetings require only two days notice of agenda items, not the regular ten days.
However, the commission report gives no reason, no legal citation, why starting a meeting 90 minutes early changes it to a special meeting. In fact, there are clear rules that distinguish a special meeting, and none of them apply to the council's July 18 meeting. For one thing, a special meeting must be confined to one issue, but the July 18 marathon meeting took up dozens of matters.
The commission will take up the citizens' complaints at its Sept. 11, 2006 meeting. You might want to go and urge the commission to denounce the current sunshine laws. What good are they when the council evades them with little games, like starting a meeting 90 minutes early? What good are sunshine rules if a determination of illegal behavior has no effect on the illegally-made decisions of the council?
The report by the staff of the public ethics commission is available here.
Farce of Master Plan
Supporters of a palace library claim it is supported by a long period of study and community input embodied in the library's master plan, begun in 2002 and issued last June. There is such a plan, but it is not Measure N.
The contents of the $148 million bond measure were put together at the last minute, as this entire incident demonstrates. Measure N embodies the decision to spend two-thirds of the money on a palace main library, at nearly twice the cost per square foot of average commercial buildings and 30 percent more expensive per square foot than even the new library just built by the City of Alameda. Measure N scatters tiny, insulting amounts of money on the neighborhood libraries while depriving nearly all the branches of the improvements and the simple operating budget increases they deserve. The council would rather spend scarce dollars on custom-built shelves and a multi-story, space-wasting atrium inside a palace – architectural boasting instead of efficient housing of books.
It's all the more reason to Vote No on Measure N!
– Sept. 1, 2006; revised Sept. 9