Local Government

In order to promote good government in Oakland, the League of Women Voters of Oakland supports measures that promote the following principles:
Position In Brief: 

In order to promote good government in Oakland which:

  • effectively and efficiently makes decisions and sets policies,
  • achieves optimum responsiveness of the government to the people, and
  • facilitates communication between the government and the people it serves,

the League of Women Voters of Oakland supports measures that promote the following principles:

  • transparency
  • responsiveness
  • meaningful citizen input
  • adequate citizen access
  • active legislature
  • well formed commissions and committee,
  • adequate checks and balances between the elements of the government
  • effective management, including good budget process and clear lines of staff supervision

The following guidelines may be referred to when taking action on local government.

Elaboration of principles:

I. Transparency

  • Readable and understandable reports, with one page summaries for long reports
  • Clear communication within the government, and between government officials and the public
  • Clear lines of authority
  • Accessible information

II. Responsiveness

  • Accessible forums for citizen input that are convenient in time and location
  • Good grievance mechanisms to ensure timely citizen input.
  • Well publicized ways for public to give input

III. Meaningful Citizen Input

  • Adequate time for input at hearings.
  • "Watchdog" committees, inside and outside of government
  • Mandatory constituency meetings

IV. Adequate Citizen Access

  • Various well publicized avenues for access
  • Active promotion of citizen involvement
  • Readily available and accessible staff and committee reports
  • Clear and well defined regular information channels
  • Promotion of Brown Act, Public Records Act, and Sunshine Ordinance, in the spirit as well as the letter of the laws

V. Active Legislature

  • Odd number of councilpersons preferred
  • Majority of members from districts
  • More than one at-large member
  • Smaller majority (than currently - as of 3/01) to overturn "reconsiderations" (suggest 2/3)
  • Access to more staff time, specifically to deal with Mayor's proposals
  • More and better coverage and publicity in press and on TV

VI. Committees and Commissions

  • Good recruitment and training procedures
  • Good widespread advance publicity of opportunities for service
  • Committees and commissions which serve a public role that is acknowledged as a source of information and ideas for the City Council
  • Convenient time and place of meetings

VII. Checks and Balances

  • Reconsideration (veto) power should remain in the mayor's office but should need only 2/3's vote to overturn it (this may be tied to the need for an uneven number or more at-large members of the council)
  • Opportunity for citizen input at the point of reconsideration, such as public hearings; active solicitation of comment

VIII. Effective Management

A. Criteria from Grading the Cities: A Management Report Card, from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University

  1. Financial Management Criteria
    Does the city exhibit a multi-year perspective in finances, using reliable financial information, to produce a budget and exercise appropriate control over financial operations?

    Is sufficient and reliable financial information available to policymakers, managers, and citizens in a timely manner?

  2. Human Resources Management Criteria
    Does the city have a mechanism for analyzing human resource needs, employing appropriately skilled employees, and a civil service structure that supports labor-management goals?

    Does the city have a process for recruiting qualified people for committees and commissions, and does it provide adequate training for both these people and elected officials?

  3. Information Technology Management Criteria
    Does the city have information technology systems in place to provide information to adequately support city officials (elected and staff)? Can the government validate and support the benefits gained from the investment in information technology? Do the information technology systems in place support the government's ability to communicate with and provide services to its citizens?

  4. Capital Management Criteria
    Does the city have a formal capital plan that coordinates and prioritizes capital spending? Does the government conduct appropriate maintenance of its capital assets?

  5. Managing for Results
    Does the city, with input from the citizens and other stakeholders, engage in results-oriented planning:
  • develop indicators,
  • evaluate valid data to measure progress, and
  • communicate the results to all stakeholders?

B. Budget Process

  • Easy to understand, timely publication of the budget available to the public
  • Publicity about the presentation of the budget, opportunity for input
  • Reasonable time lines allowing for input to budget process
  • Continued publication of information as budget moves through the process
  • Clear explanation of the emergency or discretionary fund expenditures
  • Clarity about whether emergency expenditures will form part of the base of next years budget -- will they (the emergency expenditures) be ongoing?

C. City Staff

  • Council should have a part to play in firing of City Administrator (and possibly other department heads)
  • Non-interference remains essential to prevent favoritism
  • Staff support should be available to the Council as well as the Mayor in examining policy proposals

Legislative analyst role should be more active in reviewing local government policy and legislative initiatives.

Position History: 

Oakland (1970, 1993, 2001, 2011)

League to which this content belongs: 
Oakland