Open Government Ballot Measure To Go Before San Diego City Council
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Aired 1/15/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Donna Frye, President, Californians Aware
Terry Francke, Executive Director and General Counsel, Californians Aware
An open government ballot measure that would require more government records be available publicly will head to the San Diego City Council.
The city's Committee on Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations voted unanimously to forward the ballot measure to the full council. The council will have to decide by the end of January whether to put the measure on the June 3 ballot.
Proposed Open Government Changes
Former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, now president of open government advocacy organization Californians Aware, is sponsoring the measure and spoke in support of it at the committee meeting. She was joined by other open government advocates.
City Councilman and mayoral candidate David Alvarez brought the ballot measure, which would change language in the City Charter to require more public access to government records, to the committee.
The measure's proposals will "help resolve some of the issues of public access that we have run into time and time again," Frye said. It would require:
- Communication on all mediums, including emails and text messages, that concerns city business to be open to public records requests. Currently, the charter only requires that "books, records and accounts" be open.
- If the city denies access to a public record, a written justification be provided explaining what harm would result from that disclosure.
- Access to city employees' and city contractors' communication. The charter currently only requires access to city officials' communication.
- Any new city rule or policy that resulted in limiting access to records or meetings be based on factual evidence demonstrating the need for that rule or policy.
- Rules or policies limiting access to meetings or records must go through an annual review process.
"The more information the public has, the better able they are to participate in decisions that affect them and their everyday lives," Frye said. "When you can't get the information and one side has the information and the public, which is usually the ones on the other side, doesn't have that information, they're at an extreme disadvantage."
San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith sent out a report to the committee in response to the ballot measure, which suggests several changes to it. Goldsmith said some of the language the ballot measure would add to the City Charter is "confusing and unclear," and said requiring disclosure of city contractors' communication would be costly.
"Consider whether the deletion of certain privacy rights might be interpreted as limiting the rights of privacy," he added.
The ballot measure is one of several moves toward more open government in the city of San Diego.
KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Amita Sharma contributed to the Midday and Evening Edition segments.
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