Learn What Your Government is Doing this Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week, Freedom of Information Day, access your government documents


March 16, 2012 


(Arcata, CA) – Friday, March 16, is Freedom of Information Day. This event takes place every year during Sunshine Week on the birthday of James Madison, Father of the United States Constitution and a defender of open government. Both events promote key rights of a citizen in a democracy to participate in their government's decision making process, to have access to government agency records and to know what your government is doing. In honor of Sunshine Week and Freedom of Information Day, your city government in Arcata offers this refresher on how you can find out more about your local government, what it is doing and why.

The City of Arcata website at www.cityofarcata.org is a great place to start. There, you can learn about City services, what's new at the City, pay your water bill, find out where City road crews are working and what big projects your tax dollars are funding, get detailed public information about Arcata property parcels (http://gis.cityofarcata.org/pubflexviewer/pubbasemap.html), and even learn what you can do to protect the environment and cut down your energy bill.

To be part of City decision making, you can see when and where the City Council, committees and commissions are meeting on the City website's calendar. Unless meetings are listed as closed sessions, anyone is invited to attend and participate in any meeting. According to the Ralph M. Brown Act, which is California's Sunshine Law, closed session meetings can only be held to talk about a short list of topics such as public employment and litigation. Agendas for upcoming and past meetings are available on the website.

All City Council, Historic and Design Review Commission and Planning Commission meetings are web streamed live on the City website (www.cityofarcata.org/government/watch-meeting-videos-demand) and aired live on Access Humboldt/Suddenlink Cable channel 10. If you have an iPad, iPhone or Droid, you can watch live or archived meetings from almost anywhere. You can get podcasts of these meetings automatically downloaded to your computer through an RSS stream.

If you cannot make it to City Hall for a City Council meeting but want your voice heard about something on the Council's agenda, you can file your e-comment online. E-comments can be filed when the agenda is posted online the Friday before the Council meeting until 9 a.m. on the day of the meeting. Your comments become part of the public record, just as whatever people say at the meeting is on the record and available to the public.

If you cannot find information from a meeting online, you can file a public records request with the Deputy City Clerk. Download a records request form at www.cityofarcata.org/departments/city-clerk/public-record-requests and mail or drop it off at the City Manager's office at City Hall, 736 F Street, Arcata, 95521.

James Madison wrote "... popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

To learn more about your local government in Arcata, go to www.cityofarcata.org, or call (707) 822-5953.