Yes on Proposition 42

Laws and LegislationElectionsPoliticsDemocracyLocal Government
It's a no-brainer -- vote yes on Prop. 42
The battle between Sacramento and local governments has been going on since the Gold Rush days

Should government workers and elected officials in cities, counties, water districts, school districts and other local governments be required to do their public business in public? Should they be required to post meeting agendas and turn over documents on request? Of course. It's a no-brainer. We shouldn't need a ballot measure to require them to obey what is already California law. We shouldn't have to go to the polls on June 3 to vote for Proposition 42. We shouldn't have to — but we do. The Times strongly endorses Proposition 42.

The measure would amend the state Constitution to prevent lawmakers from suspending portions of the Ralph M. Brown Act requiring adequate public notice of local government meetings, and portions of the Public Records Act requiring that documents be available for public inspection.

Proposition 42 is necessary because the state's budget crunch moved the governor and lawmakers to stop reimbursing cities, counties, schools and special districts for the costs of doing all that paperwork, and a few of those governments responded by threatening to simply stop doing it. Without state money, they argued, open government laws were unfunded mandates and they didn't have to comply.

Voters should make it clear that they do have to comply — government workers and politicians do have to obey the law, and they do have to do their work in public — regardless of who pays for it.

Of course, it's always the taxpayers who pay for it, and it's a worthwhile expenditure to ensure that elected leaders don't turn government into a secret society. Those leaders are now simply fighting over whether to take it from the taxpayers' state pocket or their local pocket, and they're using public access to meetings and documents as leverage. This battle between Sacramento and local governments has been going on since the Gold Rush days, and it became bigger and noisier 36 years ago in the wake of Proposition 13. Californians have to pay attention to that battle, because the prize is more than just their wallets. It's their rights as well.

One of the reasons the state Constitution has as many words and chapters as a modest public library is that voters have to keep adding provisions like this one that say, in essence, "When we said you have to keep government open, we meant it."

Proposition 42 is one of those measures that Californians must adopt to ensure that they don't get fleeced or shut out by the people they elect. It's important. Vote yes on Proposition 42.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Laws and LegislationElectionsPoliticsDemocracyLocal Government
  • John Duran for the 3rd Supervisorial District
    John Duran for the 3rd Supervisorial District

    Of the eight candidates to succeed Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the 3rd District, two stand out. John Duran, a criminal defense lawyer and a member of the West Hollywood City Council, offers nuts-and-bolts know-how and a firm grasp of local government's possibilities...

  • Hilda Solis for the 1st Supervisorial District
    Hilda Solis for the 1st Supervisorial District

    Los Angeles County's 1st Supervisorial District was a hard-won triumph of democracy. It was created in 1990 as a result of a voting rights lawsuit in which the Board of Supervisors was found to have drawn district lines to lock Latinos out of power in county government. A judge redrew...

  • For L.A. Superior Court
    For L.A. Superior Court

    Voters will see 15 Los Angeles Superior Court races on the June 3 ballot, but there is literally no contest in three of them, because only one candidate filed in each. In the other 12, the Times recommends:

  • Ashley Swearengin for state controller
    Ashley Swearengin for state controller

    What, you may wonder, does the state controller do? Among other things, he or she serves as the state's fiscal watchdog, keeps track of the checkbook, helps administer the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, and...

  • Jim McDonnell for sheriff
    Jim McDonnell for sheriff

    He's the best candidate to lead the department through a rigorous and soul-searching reinvention.

  • Lee Rogers in the 25th Congressional District
    Lee Rogers in the 25th Congressional District

    When Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon retires this year, California will lose a veteran lawmaker. As chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee, McKeon, a Republican from Santa Clarita, has fought to maintain Pentagon funding and to block cuts to defense programs in the 25th...