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The Brown Act

The “Other Considerations” table – Multiple versions

The "Other Considerations" table supposedly consists of a list of recommendations for changes to the draft Gateway Plan that were in conflict with the draft. The first table came out four months after the 2nd Gateway draft arrived, and contains only a small fraction of the comments from the City's Committees, from the public, and even from the Planning Commissioners that "do not comport" with the official viewpoints.

Humor & Irony: California’s Transparency Law (the Brown Act) is unreadable in Arcata’s version

In a recent e-mail with Arcata's Community Development Director David Loya, I quoted to him a key sentence from the very first paragraph of the Brown Act -- California's transparency "sunshine" law. I've quoted this to him before, mainly because I do not believe that Arcata's top planner (although with no planning degree) abides by the law. ***** In a surprising bit of irony, on the City's website the words that have the Brown Act quote are unreadable. *****

Serial Meeting Brown Act violations – What is the Law?

The Brown Act also prohibits use of a series of communications, of any kind, among a majority of members of a legislative body,  directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body. -- PROHIBITS USE OF A SERIES OF COMMUNICATIONS OF ANY KIND - DIRECTLY OR THROUGH INTERMEDIARIES.

Calling it a “Special Meeting” does not make it a Special Meeting – Part 2

According to Arcata's Municipal Code, the Planning Commission shall hold regular meetings twice monthly. In violation of this Code, the Commission has not been holding regular meetings.

Did the Planning Commission violate the Brown Act — again — at their April 27th meeting? Yes, they did.

At their April 27, 2023, meeting, the Planning Commission brought up rezoning on two specific areas in Arcata. This discussion and survey of each of the Commissioner's positions went on for about 38 minutes. Unfortunately, this topic was not listed as an agenda item for that meeting. To have this discussion was a violation of California's Brown Act "sunshine" law. What's worse, the Commissioners had specifically requested that this be on the agenda for that evening, and Community Development Director David Loya had not done put it there, even after being told on at least three occasions.

What happened at the April 11 Planning Commission meeting? A 6-minute video and transcription

What happened at the April 11, 2023, Planning Commission meeting? The Chair first announced that there would be just a single period for public comment. Then, after a one-minute private discussion with David Loya, the Chair relented and allowed additional public comment at the conclusion of the main topic of the night. Video and transcription.

Calling it a “Special Meeting” does not make it a Special Meeting

As just about everyone knows, just by saying something is true -- that does not make it true. And just by calling something by a certain name -- that does not make it be what you call it. *** So how is it that "Regular Meetings" became "Special Meetings" -- just by calling them that?

How and why did the Planning Commission change their meetings from 6:00 PM to 5:30?

The April 11, 2023 Planning Commission meeting was designated as a "Special Meeting" -- which would allow, by law, a reduction in how public input is taken. The total of public input could be limited to a single time, rather than have public input for each Business Item, as in a "Regular Meeting." *** Is this what the Planning Commissioners, as a whole, voted for? ***

Discarding the democratic process even further: The Planning Commission meeting – April 11, 2023

The full video of the April 11, 2023, Planning Commission meeting. **** Calling this a special meeting allows, by law, an allowable reduction in the manner in which input from the public is taken. Far more people were in the audience at this Planning Commission than at prior Planning Commission meetings. At this meeting, there were TWENTY-ONE members of the public WHO SPOKE.

New Planning Commission “Framework” for meetings unfortunately violates the Brown Act

At their March 14, 2023, meeting, Arcata's Planning Commission put into place a new "Framework" designed to help make the Commission meetings more efficient. The Framework includes the provision that:   "1) Commissioners will provide a ranked priority list of the policies they wish to discuss [on a set number of days] in advance of the meeting"; and then  "2) Staff will collate the responses to facilitate discussion and send the compiled list out to Commissioners by 5 p.m." [that day]. (Quoted from the "Framework" guidelines.) THE BROWN ACT SPECIFICALLY AND CLEARLY PROHIBITS THIS.

More Brown Act violations: Materials sent to Commissioners must also be sent to the public, at the same time

I regard the removal of letters from the public from the Agenda Packets, as has been done after May, 2022, and placing them away from the agenda packet at a later time, ranging from 2 weeks to 3-1/2 months later, to be against the wishes and interests of the public, and a continuous, gross violation of State law — and one which, since it can be remedied with only a small amount of effort on the part of Staff, represents a clear, obvious, and evident disregard for applicable law and for recognition of public engagement. ---- As I have said to the City Manager, to the City Council, and to the Planning Commission: This process of developing a Gateway Plan is difficult enough. Why augment a legal risk when to do things in accordance with State law involves such a relatively minor amount of effort? ******** On a risk / reward basis, current City actions make no sense. *****

The California Brown Act Law – Editorial, August 18, 2022

Everyone in California who has held office or been appointed to a Commission or Committee is familiar with the Brown Act, or at least with the basic aspects of it. Designed to promote transparency and accountability in all government matters, the procedures outlined in the Act and in subsequent amendments are requirements of governance. ***** Following Brown Act procedures is not optional. It is the law. *****

Transparency Lacking in Arcata Gateway Plan

We don’t have to go far to uncover transparency issues. We can look right here at Arcata’s Gateway Plan. Crucial letters from the public about this plan have been hidden. They aren’t seen until after the meeting the letter was written for has passed. Do Arcatans want to see L Street — right next to the Creamery, where we come for festivals and fun — turned into a truck route? I don’t think so. Nor does Arcata’s Transportation Safety Committee. But that committee’s voice likewise has been ignored. --- California’s Brown Act: “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.”

Fred Weis reads the Brown Act to the City Council

It seems that the public is not receiving the information that is our right to receive, under the law. Why the public is not receiving this information is anyone's guess. And why a citizen feels the need to read the opening lines of the Brown Act Law indicates that much is wrong.