The short end of the stick: What did we learn from Cummins vs. Encinitas?

Leaders like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were fed up with an aristocratic government that ignored them. When their calls for participatory government fell on deaf ears, they took action. As my dad would say, “they were tired of getting the short end of the stick.”
A similar struggle for participatory government is happening in Encinitas. Residents claim city staff and elected officials suppress information and limit community participation. While it would be easy to dismiss their concerns as exaggerations, the facts show that there is merit to their claims. Consider the lawsuit the city lost in failing to release a road report.
In February 2009, the city paid the Nichols Consulting Firm about $96,000 dollars to produce a road report. Nichols delivered their completed report to the city in March 2010. When residents asked to see the report they were denied access and city staff and council members began calling the completed Nichols report a “draft.”
Encinitas resident Kevin Cummins wanted to see the Nichols report so he filed a lawsuit. Rather than release the report, the council paid city attorney Glen Sabine over $23,000 to argue against the citizens. Does this make sense to you?
The city lost the lawsuit and a judge ordered the Nichols report released.
It was reported in the July 20 North County Times article, “Council will review policies following lawsuit decision,” that Deputy Mayor Stocks said future requests for drafts, studies or reports will be made on a case-by-case basis saying staff members would have to weigh the benefits versus the harmful effects of releasing the information.
What is harmful to the public is a city council that won’t release reports. What needs to be reviewed is why Mr. Stocks plans to rely on the recommendations of unelected city staff while ignoring the recommendations of citizens he is supposed to represent.
So what have we learned from Cummins vs. Encinitas?
We learned that the city will call completed reports drafts if it benefits them and not the public. In the future, completed reports should be made available to the public by linking the documents on the city’s website.
We learned also that the council majority will waste taxpayer money to keep the public from reviewing reports we pay for.
Voters don’t vote for city staff — they vote for city council. City Hall belongs to citizens — not city employees. Encinitas needs to elect leaders who demand open government, not followers who hide behind city staff. What is the point in electing candidates who would work against the public’s right to know?
Citizens in Encinitas say their calls for open government are falling on deaf ears. They are beginning to take action. It seems like they are tired of getting the short end of the stick.

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