In California, the Ralph M. Brown Act provides public access to local government agencies. Its stated purpose:
"The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created." Gov’t Code § 54950.
The Act restricts pre-meeting discussions between officials at city or county levels, but it does not restrict ongoing lobbying from industry groups, citizen groups, or others.
Most of the public is not aware of the behind-the-scenes activity nor the amounts of campaign donations made by these groups during the term of office.
When an agenda item comes up for discussion and vote, there are no disclosure statements made about these behind-the-scenes meetings, so the public is not aware of how much information or dis-information has been "planted" before a public vote is taken. Too often decisions are made behind the scenes.
What We're Doing
We attend local boards, commissions, and hearings and report back to the community on the votes, the actions, and reactions. We encourage the community to comment, attend, participate, watch the video of local meetings, and to be in touch with their local supervisors and councilpersons. We post campaign donations to local officials on our site to the end that residents and voters may know some of the behind-the-scenes influences at play. We also meet with governing officials to let them know our concerns about various issues in our county.
We envision a county where all voices are heard, including giving a voice to the environment. We picture an empowered electorate.