Thursday, January 16, 2014

DPH Chief Garcia: No Plans to Air Meetings on SF Gov TV

(Barbara Garcia. Credit: Rick Gerharter, BAR.)

About seven years ago, I attended a meeting of the Health Commission at 101 Grove Street in their third floor auditorium and requested that they start broadcasting their meetings on SF Gov TV. Seemed odd, to say the least, that the City agency that eats up more than a billion dollars in City funds does not provide full transparency on cable, live streaming and on-demand web archiving. My request was rejected.

A low-ball estimate for airing twice-monthly meetings on SF Gov TV is around $44,000, if the commissioners were willing to walk half a block from 101 Grove to City Hall across the street from their office.

I'm taking up this matter again because of my dependency on the Department of Public Health for various personal health concerns, and the larger matter of how the department is implementing Obamacare and handling our taxpayer dollars. It's not enough for the commission to produce minutes. We need to see the commission in action with our own eyes.

This is the note I sent this week to DPH head Barbara Garcia and Cecilia Chung, who is a member of the commission:

I am following up on my campaign for the SF Health Commission, in the golden age of technological communication and Obamacare, to finally get with the transparency agenda and air _every_ meeting on SFGovTV. It is a blot on the City's sunshine resume that we already do not have the commission meetings broadcast on TV or the web. 

If the taxi and entertainment commissions can budget to hold meetings that air on TV, so should the DPH. The DPH eats up $1.9 billion in City funds and allocations must be made to either air the meetings from 101 Grove Street, or the meetings need to simply be held across the street in City Hall, where many rooms are available for broadcast needs. 

Almost a year ago, the issue came up and I can't find a thing in subsequent minutes showing that Barbara came back with details about cost and process. Also, it's dismaying to see Cecilia question if every meeting needs to broadcast. Just posing that question is cause for alarm among sunshine advocates. No one questions whether every BOS meeting should air. Let's make early 2014 the period when the health commission comes into the modern age and is available on the City's various media platforms. 

February 19, 2013, minutes:

Commissioner Melara stated that she would like to explore the possibility of televising the Health Commission meetings. McGhee stated that she supports the idea of televising the Health Commission meetings. Commissioner Chung stated that not every meeting warrants televised coverage and suggested that the topic be an item on a future Health Commission agenda so that the Commission may engage in a full discussion of the issue. Director Garcia stated that DPH staff will look into the cost and process of televising the Health Commission meetings.

March 19, 2013, minutes:

Commissioner Chung encouraged the Commission to consider criteria to determine whether it is appropriate and necessary to video record each Health Commission meeting.

Barbara Garcia's reply to me today:

The commission will continue to look at this. They do not have a implementation plan at this time.

I wrote back to her and Cecilia saying I will be attending their next meeting on Tuesday, January 21, to raise this matter before the full commission during public comment. I will also be in touch with the two Supervisors running for Assembly, David Campos and Davis Chiu, to explain that if one of them takes up the issue of televising health commission meetings on SF Gov TV, they'll be getting my vote.

After so many years of DPH resisting modern technology and transparency, it's clear the department is not going to move on taking advantage of those newfangled inventions known as television and web streaming without a lot of pressure.

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