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San Diego City Council Postpones Disussion On Open Government Ballot Measure

The City Council Monday postponed discussion on a proposed City Charter amendment that would allow greater public access to city documents after the City Attorney's Office delivered a memo outlining legal concerns.

The so-called "open government'' plan would have to be put to a public vote for final approval. The idea is for it to go on the June 3 primary ballot. The item passed 5-0 with bipartisan support at the council committee level.

Open Government Ballot Measure 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 amendment would, among other things, require periodic reviews of written policies that restrict public access to city documents and require the City Council to reaffirm the need to keep such rules in place. It would also demand factual evidence of why public access to meetings or records should be restricted.


Catherine Bradley of the City Attorney's Office said the memo asks for clarifications on language, and that how those issues are resolved could change how the city is impacted by the charter amendment.

If the City Council approves the proposal on Feb. 25, the City Attorney's Office would be directed to prepare an ordinance that would call for the proposal to go on the ballot, create the ballot title and summary, and write an impartial ballot analysis.

The June 3 ballot for San Diego voters is already getting crowded with local measures.

Proposed City Charter amendments regarding a regular inauguration date and timing of special elections, along with a referendum challenging an update to Barrio Logan's zoning plan are already set for public votes. Signatures are being counted to see if another referendum, opposing an increase in building fees to fund affordable housing, qualifies for the June ballot.

The City Council will not meet Tuesday because of the mayoral runoff election. Councilman David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Bob Filner amid his sexual harassment scandal last summer.