One month after the Alameda County grand jury scolded Oakland for shackling its political watchdog commission there are movements afoot to augment both its power and funding.
The Public Ethics Commission has scheduled a hearing this month to consider expanding its authority to penalize politicians for ethics-related violations. Any new powers for the commission would have to be approved by the City Council, which also controls its purse strings.
Councilman Dan Kalb is assembling a separate working group that also will look at strengthening the commission. "When there is a watchdog with teeth that actually takes action when appropriate that gives people a sense of confidence that their local government is working well," he said.
Kalb expected the group, which will include the commission's executive director, to begin work next month and bring suggestions to the council before the end of the year.
Oakland voters established the commission in 1996 to oversee open government and campaign finance laws, but left its powers up to the City Council, which has limited its authority and its funding.
Until this month, the commission only had one full-time staffer and a budget under $200,000. San Francisco's more powerful commission had the equivalent of 17 full-time employees and a $2.2 million budget.
In investigating Councilwoman Desley Brooks' actions with respect to a city teen center, the Alameda County grand jury last month cited the commission's weakness as a reason Brooks hadn't been disciplined.
"An ethics commission with appropriate resources and power to enforce ethical standards is of the utmost importance," the grand jury wrote.
The commission's meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 24 at City Hall.
Hayward civics lesson in aesthetics
The Hayward Rotary Club wants to donate a 45-foot clock tower to the city, an idea that the City Council praised Tuesday -- but it had questions about the design.
"The structure needs to be more beefy," said Councilman Marvin Peixoto as the council commented on drawings of the proposed tower. He said the sign's legs were too spindly. When he was building a deck at his house, he insisted on heavier support posts, which improved the look, he said.
The $130,000 tower would be in a city park at the corner where Jackson Boulevard, Foothill Boulevard and Mission Boulevard come together, with 10-foot-tall clocks facing Foothill and Mission. It would have electronic sign boards underneath the clocks where city events could be publicized.
Council members complimented the Rotarians for its many years of service to the community, and were fine with the club having its logo on the tower.
But Councilwoman Barbara Halliday thought the tower should be the same green as the signal bridges that now span Foothill, or gold.
It also was suggested that perhaps the sign should have the same gridwork pattern as the signal bridges.
"I would like a little more work on the aesthetics," Halliday said.
Mayor Michael Sweeney asked that some design alternatives be drawn up and brought back to the council.