Friday, July 01, 2011

Sunshine Panel: DPW Lacks Memo
Granting Private Org Control of Milk Plaza

The occasional thing with government sunshine, is that not all matters are black and white, when it comes to wins and losses.

For example, the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force on Tuesday night considered my complaint against the Department of Public Works regarding my records request for any and all records related to Harvey Milk Plaza, ceding control of that important parcel of public property to a private group, the Merchants of Upper Market/Castro.

In response to my request, DPW stated in March in writing they had not single piece of paper, email, memorandum of understanding, no records whatsoever in their possession granting MUMC control of the plaza and the flag pole in the center of it.

However, a few weeks later SF Weekly reporter Joe Eskanazi was faxed three pages of documents from Supervisor Scott Wiener that came from MUMC, dated September 12, 2001, and showing that MUMC had agreed to maintain the plaza and all parts of it.

The SOTF hearing allowed me to present this evidence in a public forum, with Frank W. Lee, the DPW staffer who handles public records requests, present and able to respond to my concerns.

Members of the SOTF asked me questions about when and why I filed my request, what I wanted the panel to do, etc. The members had more questions for DPW's Lee about how they conducted their search, which divisions of the DPW bureaucracy were searched and was he absolutely, positively certain their archives contained no three-page memo from MUMC or any other document related to control of Harvey Milk Plaza.

And the bottom line, stated several times by Lee, was that nothing responsive to my request was located.

One SOTF member, Bruce Wolf, suggested the MUMC memor was a ruse, and I had to agree with his assessment.

The members had no motion before them, since it was abundantly clear DPW had fulfilled its searching duties, so what was it I wanted from the panel, they asked. I said the chance to publicly examine my records request and the sudden appearance of the MUMC memo, while also having them question Lee was satisfying because it was all done in public.

Technically, you could say I lost my case before SOTF because there was no motion voted on. On the other hand, I say the whole process with SOTF was a win for continuing to prove MUMC is illegitimately controlling Harvey Milk Plaza. I thanked the members for their dedication to sunshine and putting in hours of pro bono service to the citizens and our government.

The chair of the SOTF, Richard Knee, acknowledged my gratitude and said I should also express thanks to the folks in the seats behind me, who were waiting for their complaints to be heard and the city workers ready to answer questions. I followed Knee's suggestion and thanked everyone in the room.

After my matter was heard, I went over to DPW's Lee and shook his hand, thanked him for coming to the meeting and mentioned I'd be in touch with his colleagues about returning the public plaza to the public.

(Image credit: Sunshine in Government Initiative.)

1 comment:

JustMeee said...

Love it--don't stop till you get enough!