CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

How California’s Open Meetings Law Became a Gag Rule

Local Government Has Changed So Much That the Historic Brown Act Is Silencing Us, Not Protecting Us

Carmen Bella, 76, a resident of Bell, Calif. yells at city council members during a city council meeting addressing city leaders' pay in July 2010. Photo by Chris Pizzello/Associated Press.

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 …

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