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Open Government

Open Government Ordinance

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took a major step forward this year in strengthening the County’s policies on open government. Supervisor Cortese proposed the County’s Open Government Ordinance which was approved by the Board in 2011.

This February, the Board approved his recommendations to improve this ordinance, including centrally handling Public Records Act requests for all County departments, agencies and offices; the creation of a position in the County Counsel’s Office to oversee coordination of Public Records Act requests; and a complaints process for reports of violations to the Open Government Ordinance.

The County did not have a centralized method to receive, track or process requests, with each department separately handling requests, making it difficult for the public to access records. These amendments will ensure that members of the public have a streamlined vehicle to request and receive public records and that the public’s trust in government remains high.

Overturn Citizens United

The right to free speech is a fundamental freedom and unalienable right. Free and fair elections are essential to democracy and effective self-governance. But our form of governance has become increasingly entangled with corporations improperly influencing public discourse and elections. On October 8th, 2019 Supervisor Cortese called on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to consider adopting a resolution that supports an amendment to the Constitution establishing that money is not speech, campaign contributions and expenditures may be reasonably limited, and only natural persons have constitutional rights. Supervisor Cortese would like to thank all of his colleagues for their unanimous support, and more importantly –advocates from the local End Citizens United and Move to Amend coalitions for their tireless work on behalf of democracy.

Integrity in our Public Elections

Any threat to the integrity of our trusted election system should be thoroughly studied and steps should be swiftly taken. The County reported that from 2010 through 2016, it administered nearly 30 elections and observed 26 election-related errors ranging from minor clerical errors to inaccuracies in ballots and voter information guides. The County must take steps to create systematic changes, as opposed to one-time responses, to eliminate these errors from occurring. That is why Supervisor Cortese asked for Staff to regularly report on progress made and actions that have been taken and are currently underway to address the recommendations made in the most recent California State Audit of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Recognizing Domestic Partners

Currently, Santa Clara County relies on the certification of domestic partnership provided by the State of California, which may not fully encompass all of the Santa Clara County residents who wish to be domestic partners and provide recognition here locally. Thank you to the Board of Supervisors for moving forward with Supervisor Cortese’s initiative for a voluntary county system that would allow Santa Clara County to act and operate independently in honoring and recognizing domestic partnerships, including honoring domestic partnership certifications in respect to employee benefits.

Jail Reform

  • Created Blue Ribbon Commission for Jail Reform
  • Monitored Jail Reform reports
  • Pushed forward Recommendations from Commission, Consultant, Sheriff’s Office
  • Created Bail and Release Working Group (2013)

Other Actions

  • Supervisor Cortese spearheaded officially merging the efforts of Association for Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)
  • Created Federal Legislative Advocacy Task Force
  • NHA Task Force
  • NHA study
  • McDonnel Hall’s designation as a National Historic Landmark
  • First County Supervisor to reject using a County-issued credit card

Last updated: 6/24/2020 9:07 AM