Anaheim council candidate John Leos touts his “transparency ordinance” as a cure for much of what he thinks ails Anaheim city government. Now, it’s not a transparency ordinance so much as an anti-outsourcing ordinance, and it’s really an OCEA-spawned policy that was attached to Leos last year, when the government union spent in the neighborhood of $100,000 promoting it and Leos in a series of mailers to Anaheim residents.

But that’s a topic for a future post. What would have a more beneficial impact on Anaheim city government than the Leos/OCEA transparency Trojan horse is consequential transparency in the form of a COIN ordinance.

COIN stands for “Civic Openness In Negotiation.” The Costa Mesa City Council adopted it last month to govern how the city negotiates with its employee unions – in order to get a better deal for taxpayers and bring those negotiations into the sunlight where residents can see, assess and weigh in before the City Council approves the final contract. [Here’s the staff report on the Costa Mesa COIN ordinance, and the ordinance itself.]

COIN’s provisions are straightforward, and would apply to all meet-and-confer processes “undertaken pursuant to the Meyers-Milias Brown Act, where either the City or a recognized employee organization proposes changes in wages, hours, or any other terms or conditions of employment.”

Teri Sforza summarized COIN’s provisions well in this August 20, 2012 OC Watchdog column:

  • Forbid anyone who would benefit from a new contract from negotiating it. High-ranking city managers and finance types routinely represent their cities at the bargaining table, even though they too would benefit from pay raises and perks negotiated for employees. This, critics say, is a problematic conflict of interest. Instead, the city would hire an independent negotiator with no dogs in the hunt.
  • Make sure the city council — and public — understand what a new contract promises, and what those promises will cost. COIN would require an independent auditor to call out the fiscal impacts of each benefit in the current contract, and publish a report at least 30 days before negotiations begin for a new contract. Said auditor would then produce a public report detailing the cost of each new proposal to come out of the new contract negotiations.
  • Pry open the closed-session process. While not forcing negotiations into open session, COIN would require the city council to report publicly more detail that went on behind closed doors, such as which proposals are no longer being considered, and the financial implications of same.
  • Invite Joe Public to the party. After the city and unions reach agreement, COIN would require that the entire proposed contract be posted on the city’s web site at least seven days before the first council meeting where it’s discussed. It would also allow the public to comment during at least two city council meetings before a vote is taken.

Who would object to that? The Orange County Employees Association, that’s whom. As far as the OCEA – with which the Anaheim Municipal Employees Association is affiliated – is concerned, COIN takes this transparency thing too far. Here’s what OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir had to say:

“We are absolutely advocates for transparency, but much like the city of Costa Mesa’s other attempts at convincing the public that they care about real transparency, this ordinance is not what it seems,” Muir said by email. “It increases costs for taxpayers and adds a cumbersome bureaucracy to the negotiations process — all in an effort to create a one-sided venue for the council to frame political attacks on Costa Mesa employees. This ordinance clearly was not written in the spirit of respect and collaboration that has led past city councils and employee groups to forge meaningful reforms. The backer of this ordinance has only one goal in mind: political opportunism.”

“Political opportunism”? Pot, meet kettle.

OCEA is OK with a cumbersome, costly “Transparency Ordinance” designed to serve as an early-warning system about any outsourcing discussions, but a measure that gives taxpayers a heads up as to what city employee unions are demanding – well, that’s too cumbersome and too costly.

The Anaheim City Council should absolutely adopt a COIN ordinance. What is there to lose? If the Voice of OC succeeds in organizing an Anaheim council candidates forum on October 16, each candidate should be asked whether they would support adopting the COIN ordinance.