Wednesday, March 05, 2014

DPH Begins Airing Meetings on SF GovTV on 3/18: Sunshine Victory!

It's been seven years since I first made a request to the San Francisco Health Commission to televise their bi-monthly meetings on SF GovTV and various City media platforms, and today I received word from the director of the Department of Public Health Barbara Garcia that these meeting are soon to air, thereby greatly expanding City government sunshine. Barbara said:

Michael, I'm sorry that you received this tweet this is not the appropriate way of communicating this issue. [See below.]

I have been working on recording commission meetings We are engaged with SF GovTV and we found that there are electrical power issues [that we have to solve with televising the meetings], so in the meantime we are going to begin recording and live streaming them, which is planned to begin on March 18. After the electrical power matter is resolved we will have the full SF GovTV airing ability.

I wanted to personally thank you for your advocacy on this issue.

Brava, Barbara! Of course, I plan to be there when the first meeting is streamed and watch history unfold.

Since the DPH allocation of the City budget is among the top five agencies receiving General Funds, and the current health budget is $1.6 billion, it's a huge reason why these meetings must be televised. There are also the complications of implementing the Affordable Care Act and other public health insurance concerns, that demand full sunshine of this crucial commission.

The tweet Barbara referred to is one I received from transgender health advocate and health commission member Cecilia Chung, who has not been an advocate for televising meetings and indeed has questioned the need for expanding transparency, and was asked what was happening on the issue. She said:
Her cutesy tweet is more evidence of just how childish some opposition to televising has been. There also has been not one member of the Board of Supervisors in the last seven years to take up this issue. Where have the progressive Supervisors been, as DPH meetings were kept off SF GovTV?

I've approached the staffs of Supervisors running for state assembly, David Campos and David Chiu, urging them to get out front on televising the meetings and showing their commitment to expanding transparency, and pandering to the sunshine bloc that votes in every election.

At the Feb. 18 commission meeting, I spoke with Campos aide Hillary Ronen who was present to talk about public insurance matters, about getting her boss to at least send a letter to DPH urging airing meetings. Hillary demurred on behalf of Campos and when I asked what if anything his office could do, she said maybe raise the matter at budget time and didn't say when that was. So much for transparency advocacy from the Campos folks.

During her public comments, Hillary was given more time than other members of the public and she didn't raise televising concerns. Read the minutes here.

Not only have Campos and Chiu failed to advocate for DPH transparency, the same is true of the semi-alternative weakly Bay Guardian which sent reporter Rebecca Bowe to the Feb. 18 meeting. I tried to speak with her in the hallway about transparency and she didn't want to dialogue, and her report omits mention of transparency that was raised during the hearing.

Over at the SF Chronicle, writer Heather Knight also covered the meeting and like Rebecca said not one word about transparency, showing a weird common ground in this instance between the weakly and daily rags.

I maintain that the Bay Guardian is megaphone of politicians Campos and Tom Ammiano, and their political base the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, and the public employee unions, and if those forces aren't pushing for more sunshine you can forget about their stenographers at the paper delving into the lack of TV airings.

1 comment:

Paatrick Monette-Shaw said...

I was concerned for your spirits a week or so ago, Michael, when you lamented the slow pace of change in being a Sunshine advocate.

But news that DPH may begin broadcasting their meetings on TV is an important step forward. It's incremental change.

Just like my victory last October forcing DPH to start properly including agenda item descriptions for each agenda item on its various meeting agenda's, change (and transparency) comes slowly to government officials accumstomed to working in serecy.

Getting them to adequately describe meeting agenda items was an important step forward. So is your efforts to get DPH to broadcast meetings.

It's all incremental. And our job to is push them in the right direction, one step at a time.

Keep up the great work, and never give up!

Patrick Monette-Shaw