The recent passage of a new sunshine ordinance has prompted the city of Berkeley to launch a new one-stop web page where residents can find information on meetings, agendas, and correspondence between officials.
The page “acts as a clearinghouse for the various documents and information guaranteed to citizens under the Berkeley Open Government Ordinance.”
In addition to links to the city council agenda and meeting schedule, it has links to the public records of various departments. While this material was available before, it often took some searching and clicking to find things.
“It’s a lot easier to find on a single page, but it’s always been there,” said Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city spokeswoman. “Our web site has a ton of information. Making it more accessible to people is something we always work on.”
Most interesting, perhaps, is a section that posts communications from the city manager and department heads to outside agencies. The first communication, posted April 9, is a letter from Police Chief Michael Meehan to the Berkeley Unified School District concerning school safety. It was written after a number of students were caught bringing guns to Berkeley High and B-Tech.
There is also a link to a form that can be filled out if someone thinks the city is not complying with state and local open meetings laws.
The city has also started to post agendas for city council meetings 11 days in advance, as required by the new law, which came into effect April 9. Previously, the agendas went up about four days in advance.
That may lead to multiple council agendas at the same time, which may be confusing, said Clunies-Ross. For example, the agenda for the city council’s April 26 meeting is now on-line. Tomorrow the city will post the May 3 agenda.
While a number of cities and police agencies have turned to Facebook and Twitter to better communicate with its residents, Berkeley has not yet formulated a policy on social media, said Clunies-Ross. There are a number of issues that need to be resolved before that happens, she said.