Saturday, March 11, 2006

Real Time

The phrase "real time" in the Open Open Government Online charter amendment is only used in two specific contexts - publishing calendars and phone logs for top officials and for filings by certain developers that are already electronic when submitted. All that means is that the city must post that particular information online as soon as they have it. They couldn't keep two official calendars, for example, and put the information online later.

Otherwise, "real time" in the amendment represents a goal of immediacy, but never a requirement. City legal's expansive interpretation comes from a line in the opening section of the charter amendment that lays out its intent. The complete sentence reads: "The City must, as expeditiously as possible and to the greatest extent practical, make all public information available online in real time and accessible to the public." The qualifiers as to what's "possible" and "practical" give council an enormous amount of wiggle room to not have to implement real time components when it's not possible or not practical.

Remember, this is a charter amendment - the city implements the actual policies later through ordinance and can use all the leeway and discretion implied there. It's becoming a hobby for our opponents to make up some outlandish scenario where publishing information would cause a problem them claim the amendment "requires" it to go online. But if a suggestion for something to go online doesn't seem "practical" or "possible," the city has all the authority it needs to make that judgement.


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