Ethics panel is not given enough power

Oakland's Public Ethics Commission recently held its annual retreat. Some of the commissioners are new and may have been discouraged by their responsibilities. I counted five major charges to oversee compliance with ordinances, regulations and to recommend council salary. These are not just little issues.

The list, but not salary, includes campaign reform, code of ethics, conflict of interest code, sunshine ordinance (open meetings and access to public records) and lobbyist registration. The largest component of PEC work is to adjudicate complaints rising out of the sunshine ordinance. These usually involve illegal meetings and failure to obtain a requested record.

"Oversee" means recommending to the council fees to administer these programs, recommend penalties for violation, issue advice on duties needed to carry out responsibilities, prescribe forms to be used for administrative functions and develop training/informational programs for all of them.

Just in case there is spare time, "Perform such other functions and duties as may be prescribed." You will notice that the word "enforce" does not appear. That is because much is required, but nothing given to actually make meaningful changes.

I have long wondered what average human could possibly imagine carrying out all the above with a staff of one director and maybe an assistant. Was the legislation as enacted in 1997 serious? Or was it just put into the City Charter as wallpaper?


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Certainly Oakland is unique here. No other comparable set of laws in any other California jurisdiction is administered by two people. I do not accuse the original supporters of setting the ordinance up to fail. But, one wonders.

If citizens are serious in demanding transparency and accountability, we should demand adequate funding for our Public Ethics Commission. Lacking that, it's just wallpaper.

Barbara Newcombe

Oakland

Liberals confounded by differing views

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the letters complaining about the Mallard Fillmore comic strip. California is a liberal state and the Bay Area more so, but that just adds to the fun of reading the complaints.

I saw no letters complaining about the liberal piffle put forth by Doonesbury. Liberals love to preach tolerance, but it seems they're not immune to a common human disease; it's OK to speak your mind as long as it doesn't conflict with my beliefs.

I choose not to read certain strips, but only for the reason that they fail to entertain me. If you don't like Mallard Fillmore, don't read it. If it bothers the left-wingers out there, it's good enough for me.

Dale R. Toussaint

Hayward

Address the real issues

This is in response to all the cries regarding gun owners and the National Rifle Association citing the Second Amendment.

If one recalls history, the militia of the Revolutionary War was composed of men who farmed land and worked in newspapers, shoe stores, markets and the like. They were not soldiers trained by the government's military. They were you and I.

You coattail riders, trying to hitch a ride on the bandwagon, should write letters addressing real issues -- the health of our children, corporate criminals, pharma crime.

I agree that any item that can be used as a weapon should not be in the hands of those with the intent to cause mayhem and harm.

As to writers referring to Australia's strict gun laws enacted in 1997, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology: The murder rate by firearms rose to its highest, at 16.3 percent, and overall crime rose to 42.2 percent.

What most fail to see is how these killers were raised. I'm not speaking only of mental health as a result of physiological trauma but how nutrition plays a vital role in the well-being of an individual. All of it is relevant.

Michael Greene

Pleasanton