The city’s new Sunshine Ordinance will expand the time to review agendas for the regular meetings of the city council and planning commission from 5 to 12 days.
“The 12-day window allows every community member the time they need to review agenda items thoroughly,” said City Manager John Russo. “People and business owners who pay their taxes to run a good government ought to have the opportunity to share information, ask questions, and make their opinions known before City Hall acts on their behalf.”
Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland. While in Oakland, Russo wrote that city’s open government law and the Sunshine Ordinance to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He has championed the cause of transparency in government since.
The Irvine Sunshine Ordinance expands public notice to four times longer than California law requires.
The Brown Act requires regular meeting agendas be posted at least three days/72 hours in advance, while mandating 24-hour notice for a special meeting. Irvine’s special meetings will now also have additional notice, from 24 hours to five days.
Residents, as well as councilmembers and commissioners, will now have more time to review staff reports, offer feedback, and prepare for hearings.
The City Council voted 4-0 to adopt the new ordinance. Councilwoman Lynn Schott was absent.
“I am a strong supporter of measures, such as the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, that increase government transparency and openness, and prevent government action without full and informed participation and input from the community,” notes Councilmember Melissa Fox on her blog and newsletter.
The city of Irvine’s website also has a new Transparency Portal, which includes information about the Sunshine Ordinance. The site also now has a new and useful web-based map that tracks development in the city, including projects under review, under construction, and recently completed.
The map includes major developments approved in the past five years. City officials note that the map is “an effort to enhance transparency and aid citizens in understanding projects that may affect the community.”
In another move toward increased transparency and enhanced long-term planning, the Irvine City Council unanimously approved moving from a single-year budget to a two-year budget cycle.
According to the city, the two-year budget cycle will begin in fiscal year 2019-20, and will be developed in the context of a comprehensive five-year financial plan. “A two-year budget promotes transparency, brings increased accountability to government spending, greater stability, and allows for long-term strategic planning,” according information on the city’s website.
“Two-year budgets and five-year financial planning bring more accountability to government spending,” Russo wrote in a statement also signed by Assistant City Manager Marianna Marysheva. “They demand both staff and elected officials be proactive in calculating future revenue potential, preparing for changes in population and service demands, identifying and setting aside funds for aging infrastructure such as buildings and roads, and clearly analyzing the long-term impacts of current and future policies and initiatives.
“This reform will strengthen the city’s already renowned record in providing top-quality services to more than 275,000 constituents while maintaining a strong financial position,” the statement said.
The creation of the city’s two-year budget will begin with the Finance Commission reviewing the initial baseline budget in January, followed by the city council.
After receiving input from the community, detailed and balanced budgets will be presented to the Finance Commission in April. Following commission input, the proposed two-year budget and five-year plan will be presented to the city council for approval in June 2019.
“We look forward to the Irvine community’s new and more robust role in the budget process,” Russo and Marysheva said.
“The most important goal of a two-year budget and a five-year fiscal plan is to ensure that we remain fiscally vibrant, and responsible, not only for tomorrow, but for the tomorrows after that.”