“The principle of open government holds that the public has a right to know about, and participate in, the actions of government. It is rooted in the concept of democracy, as responsible self-governance is impossible when the people are uninformed about, and excluded from participation in, their government’s operations. It is rooted in the concept of liberty as well, since an informed public is in a much better position to protect constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. And it is rooted in the practical idea that when information is shared, the quality of the resulting government policies is improved. To ensure that government functions openly, the people should have a right to view the records generated by governmental agencies…. Moreover, policy-making should be conducted openly and with input from the true stakeholders in those policies: the people.” —The Brennan Center for Justice
Working for Open Government:
Much of Petaluma Tomorrow’s efforts have fallen into the category of “open government.” Our efforts for campaign finance reform in Petaluma made sure that all policy stakeholders had an equal voice in electing the City Council and Mayor. Measure R passed by voters in 2004 was a defining achievement which sharpened our focus on open elections as the foundation of open government. Our ongoing efforts include:
- Analysis of the sources of contributions with a particular emphasis on identifying contributions from the “development industry” and contributions from out-of-town (see our Election Watch page for examples).
- Review of campaign filings to identify possible violations of reporting rules and requirements.
- Identifying and championing opportunities to strengthen campaign finance rules with the ultimate goal of removing the money as a limiting and potentially corrupting influence in local politics.
Specific examples during recent election cycles include:
- Our 2008 election door-hanger highlighting the overwhelming influence of development industry on the campaign finances of several candidates;
- Challenging illegal campaign practices through the Fair Political Practices Commission including filing complaints regarding
- a Councilmember and candidate – Samanta Freitas — failing to disclose the true source (a Southern California developer with interests in retail development in Petaluma) in her campaign filings
- gross errors in filings by then Councilmember and candidate for Supervisor David Rabbitt. His reports included well over 100 errors and call into question his ability to do basic accounting and math, or worse yet, his respect for city regulations.
- failure to disclose addresses and occupations of donors by council candidate Karen Nau.
- Filing a complaint with the District Attorney for violation by David Rabbitt of Petaluma’s campaign ordinance for failing to report contributions and accepting these contributions which were far in excess of the $200 limit for city races.
- Endorsing candidates, including David Glass, Teresa Barrett, Jason Davies and Gabe Kearny in the 2010 election for Mayor and City Council, and Pamela Torliatt for Supervisor.