The Props: 59 YES -- Public Records, Open Meetings

To one living in a town where the city council routinely veils itself in closed sessions and "hides in plain site" by holding seven-hour "public" meetings that extend long past the witching hour, when all good citizens have taken to their beds, Prop 59 seems long overdue. The California Sunshine Amendment strengthens public access and open meeting requirements by embedding them in the state constitution. The so-called Brown Act and other statutes enacted since the 1950s have proved inadequate to the job of securing open access to government information and assuring that the public business is conducted in public. In Santa Monica, for example, the burden falls generally on the public to make a fuss when the government secretes itself; by establishing a constitutional guarantee to open access and public meetings, Prop 59 puts the onus on the government to defend secrecy. Legal experts suggest that 59 will encourage the courts to be less forgiving of policies and procedures that restrict access. The initiative would have existing laws that grant access be interpreted broadly and restrictions narrowly, and allows only a handful exceptions for such things as confidential proceedings of the Ledge, matters of personal privacy, and information about the performance and qualifications of peace officers. YES.

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