City Life: End the secrecy

give us the truth

December 17, 2010|By Steve Smith

The financial shenanigans under investigation in the city of Bell have caused a scramble to climb aboard the "transparency" train. Government agencies are tripping over themselves to show their constituencies that they have nothing to hide.

Transparency is the new black.

Local agencies could take their cue from the Costa Mesa Sanitary District (CMSD), which is operating in such a transparent manner that its website even has a button labeled "Transparency."

There, you can discover that each board member receives a per diem of $221 per day of service, not to exceed six days per month. The highest paid board member for the fiscal year 2009-10 was Arlene Schafer at $15,691 in salary and $1,201 in benefits. The benefits are described as "…a small premium the CMSD pays for a board member's Social Security and Medicare costs."


Elsewhere, each of the individual School Accountability Report Cards on the Newport-Mesa Unified School District website shows the 2008-09 salary of recently indicted Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard ($237,073) as well as the average principal's salary for elementary, middle and high schools ($106,885, $118,152 and $121,935, respectively) and the ranges of teacher salaries. The website does not post compensation for the trustees, though Hubbard's profile on the site states that he favors "transparency and candor."

Apparently, that "transparency and candor" policy applies to everyone else, for there is language in the board's policies that requires a closed session to discuss the superintendent's annual evaluation.

Locally, the best transparency model can be found on the website for the city of Newport Beach, which meets the trend head-on by referencing the "news reports" about the city of Bell. At the site, you can see the specific revenue from cable franchising ($1,750,000), street closure permits ($40,000) and much more. You can also find compensation for City Council members and others on the website.

Overall, the local public agencies are doing a good job of being transparent. It's good, but it could be better.

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