Sacramento respects government transparency, no really

Irony of ironies.

Five days before a national call to government transparency known as “Sunshine Week,” Sacramento residents confronted their elected representatives with what they felt to be shadowy dealings.

The idea to limit the public’s access to proposed city contracts of $1 million or more from 10 days to two was all a huge misunderstanding, backpedaling city officials assured Tuesday.

City clerk Shirley Concolino said her office was simply trying to stem the confusion that came from posting documents online to consecutive agenda calendars, which occasionally drew residents to discuss items that wouldn’t be heard for another week.

“This is a process issue,” Concolino said, “and causing some confusion.”

Even though she retracted the proposal at the outset of a hearing on the council’s procedural rules, that didn’t stop attendees from blasting a City Hall that’s soon to decide on whether to plunge $258 million worth of public money into a new sports arena.

“The idea … that the sunshine rule would be gutted just three weeks before the largest single transaction of this kind or any other by this city, involving incredibly complex matters, was a stunner and really set us back on our heels,” said Craig Powell, president of Eye on Sacramento, a taxpayer watchdog group that spread word about the item a day before on Twitter.

Powell added that he was pleased with Concolino’s recommendation to “put this in the box it came from,” but others remained critical.

“Like 10 days is really going to change the back-door deal that’s been made with the Kings for taxpayer money and city assets,” scoffed Julie Mumma, an adjunct professor with Sacramento State University. “No secret deal? Right.”

Council members were quick to say they didn’t support limiting the public’s access to multimilliondollar contracts, including Councilman Jay Schenirer, who last year proposed the very policy that was almost retracted. He and others said the larger issue was erasing confusion, and that the clerk would work to do that without shortening the 10-day time frame.

“I have complete confidence in the city clerk to figure this out,” he added.

“We will figure this out,” Concolino said.

In response to Powell’s offer to help with any technical issues, Schenirer grinned, then said, “Eh, we’ll see.”

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