The Ralph M. Brown Act, first approved in 1953, is celebrated for its supposed guarantees that we citizens have a voice in the decisions of all our local governments.
But today, it is little more than a gag rule.
Over the past six decades, the Brown Act—famous for its guarantee of a 72-hour notice for public meetings—has become a civic Frankenstein, threatening the very public participation it was intended to protect.
The act’s requirements of advance notice before local officials hold a meeting has mutated into strict limitations on the ability of local officials to have any kind of frank conversation with one another, even over email. Brown Act requirements that we, the public, be allowed to weigh in at meetings have been turned against us, by way of a standardized three-minute-per-speaker limit at the microphone that encourages rapid rants and discourages real conversation between local officials and the citizens they represent.