Public comes to the defense
After the public turned up the heat on legislators — via letters, calls, emails and newspaper editorials — lawmakers backed down from an ill-conceived plan to gut many of the mandates on the state's Public Records Act. The Assembly voted Thursday to undo part of a budget bill that would have made some provisions of the Public Records Act voluntary for local agencies. These include requirements to respond to public records act requests within 10 days, give a legal explanation for rejections and to supply the information in a format that's available and preferred by the requester. Better still, Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate Democrats have indicated they intend to put to voters a constitutional amendment that would restore all the mandates for transparency without requiring the state to reimburse local agencies for the costs. Great idea. Let's do it. It's clear the state is getting the message. Compliance should not be optional nor should it be allowed to be batted around like a volleyball during budget debates. How much does it cost to hand over a document anyway?
Keeping the fine print hidden
California property owners get soaked when their local school districts finance projects with capital appreciation bonds — long-term securities with interest payments totaling $10 or more for every dollar borrowed. In one Southern California district, taxpayers are on the hook for $1 billion in interest on a $105 million bond.
A bill that would place some modest restrictions on the practice cleared the Assembly, but it stalled this week in the Senate Education Committee. Among other things, AB 182 would limit interest payments to four times principal and require a formal public hearing with an analysis of the cost of paying off the bonds. Is that really too much to ask?
Free parking at county beaches?
On Sunday, we noted that if Sonoma County rejects a bid by the state to start charging $7 for parking at state beaches in Sonoma County, it should, in the name of consistency, stop charging its own $7 day-use fee at county beaches. And that's essentially what happened at the county Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. After supervisors unanimously rejected the state plan, parks director Caryl Hart said the county could consider removing the fees at five trailheads — at Sea Ranch and at Pinnacle Gulch and Bird Walk, both in Bodega Bay — where no services are provided other than parking. We encourage the county to set the right tone and go fee-free, regardless of whether the state's iron rangers storm the beaches or not.