Thursday, March 09, 2006

City Council misleading voters with open government ballot language

If Austin City Councilmembers want to campaign against the Open Government Online Charter Amendment as individuals on their own time, that is their right. But campaigning against the amendment using their official positions is a huge disservice to the voters. Disgracefully, that's what's happening, though. The proposed ballot language for the open government online amendment has little to do with the actual language in the amendment.

Every line of the proposed ballot language is designed to mislead voters into opposing the initiative. For example, it says public officials' "personal correspondence" would be put online. That's wrong on at least two levels: First, the amendment doesn't affect any records except those related to city business. The idea that personal correspondence would become public is simply a flat out lie. Second, the charter amendment simply DOES NOT mandate that email correspondence of councilmembers go online - it only requires that it be archived, which the city does already, just for a shorter time. That's just not a significant change, but opponents of the amendment are intentionally overstating their objections.

Another sleazy tactic: The langage says that "companies seeking to do business" with the City must "waive their right to protect proprietary business information submitted to the City." Again, that's a flat-out falsehood: Only businesses seeking tax waivers and special subsidies must disclose certain new business information, but the vast majority of companies doing business with the City of Austin aren't looking for government handouts and wouldn't be affected.

Similarly, the proposed language includes speculative, conclusory statements that amount to smears against the initiative, hardly accurate assessments of what it does. The amendment "could expose the city to financial liability," it declares, without stating which part of the amendment supposedly does so. Of course, any city action "could" expose the city to liability, but they only include the caveat on the proposals they all oppose.

The City Council's disingenuous manipulation of the open government online ballot language shows exactly why this initiative is needed -- they just can't be trusted to act in the public's interest or to engage important issues honestly.


At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am personally against the open government amendment. I think it is a good idea gone horribly wrong.


I find the hyperoble being used by some about the provisions in the amendment disingenous. I have closely analyzed the amendment and its relation to state law...and I think some are making wild claims about its effect. I don't see anywhere in the amendment where it would require the librarian to disclose what books people checked out, as an example.

I think voters are intelligent enough to decide about the merits of this amendment, and I think they will find it is a bad idea. But people should be careful not to distort reality...we had enough of that during the Sonleitner campaign.


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