Monday, March 20, 2006

Some newspapers support open government

The San Jose Mercury News has proposed it own Sunshine Law as part of the recently concluded 2006 Sunshine Week. Unlike some less-than-supportive coverage on the part of the Statesman, the Mercury News used its own attorney to create a comprehensive ordinance opening up the City of San Jose to greater scrutiny. Much like the Open Government Online Amendment, this proposal opens up the City to greater scrutiny from the public. Similar to our amendment the San Jose amendment was born out of the frustration of the community at surprise development deals that state open records law allowed:

The weakness of [California open records law] has been particularly obvious in San Jose lately. Several major initiatives were formulated behind closed doors: a baseball stadium proposal for a downtown neighborhood and a downright loony plan for a soccer stadium with an $80 million public price tag.

For the ballpark, land purchases began before there was any serious public discussion of the location. The community finally revolted at a recent council meeting, and the plan has slowed down.

The soccer proposal eventually was disowned by the council, but only after city staff had shopped it to the professional soccer league. Staff members don't take the initiative to wave around an $80 million offer unless they've had assurance that elected officials support it. Only the public was out of the loop.

Whenever we go to discuss the OGO with neighborhood groups, they voice similar concerns that they have been left out of the loop on development directly affecting their homes and neighborhoods.

Also similar to the OGO, the proposed San Jose ordinance would require taping of closed sessions in order to "discourage the council from conducting inappropriate closed-door discussions." Taping of executive sessions is required under Section 6A of the OGO. The San Jose paper has even gone one step further than the OGO by calling for "an independent task force or commission that includes community representatives" to oversee San Jose's compliance.

That's not a bad idea.


At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

I'm totally obsessed with this since reading about it on Austinist.

Would you please change your settings to allow for RSS feeds?

Thanks, yo.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

Sorry about that!

I had actually turned the feed on when we started the site, but I forgot to add the link to the front page.

I have added both an Atom Feed and a FeedBurner Feed.



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