Costa Mesa is California's most transparent city, posting a wide array of public information on its website, including every check written by the city, legal fees and settlements, and the most detailed public employee compensation report in the nation. Costa Mesa also has enacted the Civic Openness In Negotiations (COIN) ordinance to provide stakeholders with unprecedented access to the city's labor talks.
These efforts have earned the city Sunny Awards in 2012 and 2013 from the nonprofit Sunshine Review, an honor given to only 3.5% of the 7,000 government websites analyzed, and the top transparency rating by the Orange County Grand Jury, which cited Costa Mesa as a shining example of government transparency.
Several studies have shown that the more transparent local government is, the more citizens will participate and the better they will generally feel about their city. In 2011, the City of Costa Mesa launched a transparency initiative that sought to provide residents and others with as much easily accessible public information as possible.
The City believes with what the preamble to the Brown Act states: “The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
Since 2011, the City has significantly expanded the amount of public information available on its website. Items posted online for the first time include: conflict of interest statements, campaign contributions to candidates and political action committees (PACs), legal fees and settlements, each check written by the City, council compensation, each city contract, city pension information, and a detailed breakdown of public employee compensation.