Friday, March 15, 2013
Marking Sunshine Week in San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner on Thursday unveiled a new section of the city website that makes good on his promise for open government—putting in one place information on the pensions being paid city retirees as well as all lawsuits involving City Hall.
With his open-government chief Donna Frye standing beside him, he displayed what Frye called one of the most transparent city sites in the state, if not the nation.
“It’s Sunshine Week every week in the city of San Diego,” said Frye, the former councilwoman, who said she is collecting an annual pension of $31,000 as well as a salary for her new job of about $100,000 a year.
Under current city rules, she can’t work for more than 90 days, but Filner is asking the City Council to allow former council members to be hired for a year at a time.
When asked about “double-dipping” complaints by former Councilman Carl DeMaio, who lost in the mayor’s race, Frye said: Who? And then repeated that word, dismissing his criticism.
Filner declared: “There is no double-dipping here. Miss Frye is working for a salary with no other benefits” at $48 an hour. “We want to make use of her talents and commitment to the city.”
Frye told Patch in a separate interview that perhaps a hundreds city employees in many departments contributed to the new site—with no resistance to sharing information.
In any case, Frye boasted that “Mayor Filner is probably the first mayor in the state of California to appoint a director of open government.”
She also put San Diego’s website in the top 10 percent statewide for openness and transparency.
When Filner was asked whether he would put his daily schedule online, he said: “We’re working that stuff out and will be able to get that on”—but needed to sort out security issues with his police detail.
Labor union agreements, campaign finance disclosures, lists of gifts to elected officials, construction contracts and public notices can also be found at the site, which went live about 8 a.m. Thursday, Frye said at a half-hour news conference in the mayor’s 11th-floor conference room at City Hall.
Frye called the new site—which offers the public new opportunities to contact city agencies—a work in progress. She said the city seeks input on how to make it more useful.
The site also fulfills requirements of city ordinances and voter-approved measures to make public information about the city's pension obligations and other actions of City Hall.
Filner said the city has always fulfilled disclosure rules but that recent ordinances and Propositions A and B approved by voters in June 2012—regarding project-labor agreements and city pensions—mandated public posting of contracts and retiree pay.
“I don’t think we’ve been out of compliance,” he said.
Filner said the site would continue to be updated, keeping his promise of open government.
“It should be a constant commitment and reminder to most of us operating in the public domain in City Hall—or Sacramento or Washington,” he said of public disclosure, which he called a “hallmark of democracy and representative government.”
“You forget how limited the access is to knowledge,” he said, recalling how as a parent he was mocked at a school board meeting for not having background on an issue.
“You’ve got to make sure that you’re constantly thinking about how the average person knows what’s going on—and make that accessible to them so they can participate.”
Said Frye: “The bottom line is the public has a right to know what the government’s doing—and they have a right to know why we’re doing it.”