Public Comment

Berkeley's Measure U: $1 million for sunshine? That’s a stretch! And it would still be a bargain!

By Richard Knee
Friday September 28, 2012 - 03:32:00 PM

Opponents of Berkeley’s proposed Sunshine Ordinance (Measure U) claim it would increase the cost of city government by between $1 million and $2 million annually.

They don’t itemize that estimate; they just want you to take their word for it.

Even if it were accurate, the cost for each of Berkeley’s 130,000 residents would be at most about $15.40 a year or just under $1.30 a month.

But if San Francisco’s experience is any indication, the estimate is way off the mark. 

After surveying city departments, San Francisco’s Budget and Legislative Analyst said compliance with local and state sunshine laws carried “identified” costs of about $4.27 million in calendar 2011 – just over 0.6 percent of that city’s fiscal 2011-12 budget of $6.83 billion – of which Sunshine Ordinance Task Force operations accounted for $997,676. 

Bear in mind that the task force has a full-time administrator, while Measure U would mandate only a part-time secretary for Berkeley’s Sunshine Commission. 

The San Francisco analyst’s report also pointed to a likelihood that without the task force, “some portion of complaints would be directed to other public bodies, such as the courts, which would in turn incur costs.” 

So the task force has saved the city untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in court expenses. And who knows how many millions of dollars the local and state sunshine laws have saved San Francisco by enabling the exposure or prevention of backroom deals? 

Likewise, Measure U would likely bring a net cost savings to Berkeley’s taxpayers. It’s a bargain! And it deserves your “Yes” vote. 

Richard Knee is *Member and past chairman, San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force 

*For identification purposes only. The foregoing is intended strictly as a conveyance of personal knowledge and opinion.