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City Council, Supervisors Vote To Uphold Brown Act Without State Support

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the San Diego City Council affirmed their allegiance to open government today in response to the state's suspension of some requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act as a means of cutting costs.

The California Legislature enacted the Brown Act in 1953 to guarantee the public's right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.

Last month, the Legislature agreed to suspend for three years a requirement that local governments post agendas 72 hours in advance of meetings. Also suspended was the requirement to make public the actions taken by government agencies in closed sessions, which are permitted in discussions of lawsuits and some personnel matters.

"The Brown Act illuminated the dark corners of government offices where much of the public's business was conducted behind closed doors,'' Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said. "While the Brown Act empowers the public and the press, it's only as good as the officials who adhere to it and the watchdogs who demand compliance.''

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to uphold the 72-hour notice requirement for agendas and to continue to publicly announce decisions made in private.

"We welcome transparency and we welcome public participation,'' Slater-Price said. "We're an open book and we plan to stay that way.''

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution stating it and various city panels would continue to comply with the Brown Act as it was intended.

"This resolution is to reaffirm this council's, the mayor's commitment to our open meeting laws and to continue, regardless of what the state does with its budget or mandated programs,'' said Councilwoman Marti Emerald.

The council also directed the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance to be considered at a future meeting to ensure the public will have remedies for non-compliance with the Brown Act.

"Public participation is the foundation of our democracy, and we are ensuring San Diegans will always have a voice at City Hall,'' said Councilman Todd Gloria. "The state may say we don't need to include the public in our meetings, but the San Diego City Council values the people we represent.''

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