Thursday, January 30, 2014

Which 7 SF Supervisors Voluntarily Released Their Calendars?

There needs to be more voluntary sunshine from our elected officials and to increase transparency, I am sharing the December 2013 calendars of seven members of the Board of Supervisors and the Clerk of the Board. Unfortunately, San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance, written by a previous slate of supervisors, exempts supervisors from requiring them to keep and share calendars. 

The ordinance states: The SEC. 67.29-5. CALENDARS OF CERTAIN OFFICIALS. The Mayor, The City Attorney, and every Department Head shall keep or cause to be kept a daily calendar wherein is recorded the time and place of each meeting or event attended by that official, with the exclusion of purely personal or social events at which no city business is discussed and that do not take place at City Offices or at the offices or residences of people who do substantial business with or are otherwise substantially financially affected by actions of the city.

A public records request was sent to ten of the supervisors, the District 8 Supervisor was exempted from my informal survey due to his legal vendetta against me. The first to reply was District 5 Supervisor London Breed: The sunshine ordinance does not require members of the board of supervisors to maintain an official calendar.

Breed copied her reply to the Clerk of the Board Angela Calvillo who seized the opportunity to engage with me about the supervisors' calendars and to her credit, she volunteered to send me her December calendar. You can read it here.

The seven supervisors who provided their December calendars to me without any qualms are as follows, with links to their calendars:

District 1 Supervisor Eric Mar;
District 3 Supervisor David Chiu;
District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang;
District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim;
District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee;
District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen;
District 11 Supervisor John Avalos.

It's my hope that the praise I now offer to these seven supervisors (and to the clerk), for their terrific voluntary acts of complying with my public records request for a one-month calendar (which is a public document regardless of what the Sunshine Ordinance says), will carry some weight for larger sunshine issues.

Big thanks to these seven supervisors and their staffs for not only releasing their December calendars in electronic format but also for doing so quickly!

Maybe Breed, along with Supervisors Mark Farrell and David Campos who never acknowledged receipt of my public records request much less shared their calendars, will join their seven colleagues in making their calendars available for public inspection.

The larger context here, which I've been pushing since last spring, is for all City department heads, whether elected or appointed, the mayor and supervisors, all of whom are our public employees, to voluntarily provide us taxpayers and voters with monthly publication of their calendars on their respective web sites. Let's start to view their calendars are time-sheets for the bosses, the taxpayers.

I am advocating doing away with placing a burden on the citizens to file requests for the calendars. Sunshining the these important public documents must be done regularly and voluntarily, so we can better keep tabs on our City employees. Let's also not overlook my efforts to sunshine the guest lists and costs of Mayor Ed Lee's City Hall parties and his various official functions.

Now, one might think San Francisco Pravda, my nickname for the Guardian, which touts itself as a fabulous government transparency advocate, would pick up on this idea and pay attention to the many calendars I've obtained and shared on the web. However, the Guardian ignores these matters and I can't get their support, I believe, because they are just too myopically focused on bicycling issues, public service unions and the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and these bread-and-butter transparency issues I'm raising aren't on their radars.

Last week, Guardian writer Rebecca Bowe, who's got a decent sunshine reporting track record, posed and didn't answer these questions:

What if each and every public record — down to every last email, calendar appointment, or police report — were instantly uploaded to a publicly accessible database, easy to locate, and fully searchable? Would that be a check against corruption?

What if the Guardian were to report on related existing citizen's efforts? Hello, Rebecca? There is one blogger who's been advocating on these matter for years. In May 2012, I called for the fire department to make all fire incident reports available for public inspection on their City site. Last April, I obtained and shared the District Attorney's calendar, full of media appearances and pressers, and that of the Sheriff, which was very detailed with his meetings and often said who he met with.

Last week, Rebecca's colleague Steven T. Jones penned a piece titled "Local journalists starting to catch on to Airbnb's subversion of SF's rental market", in which he patted himself on the back and I don't begrudge him doing so for his trailblazing reporting:

Yet I’ve been one of the few local journalists to hound Airbnb over its illegal business model and refusal to pay nearly $2 million per year in transient occupancy taxes that it owes the city. But that may be beginning to change, as pair of mainstream local publications in the last week have cautiously waded into what outside journalists from Time magazine (which specifically mentioned my reporting on the issue)

Sure would be great if the Guardian followed the example of Time and got around to reporting on the reporting and digging I and other sunshine advocates have performed in recent years.

Again, thanks to Avalos, Calvillo, Chiu, Cohen, Kim, Mar, Tang, Yee, and their staffers!

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