Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Council fails scorecard... so far

What with the court ruling that they committed illegal electioneering, and their poor attempts to fix it in a special session on Monday (except for Danny Thomas!), I know that the City Council has been busy.

No one has filled out the Open Government Scorecard.

Last week, I sent out the Open Government Scorecard by fax, email, and regular mail to all members of City Council to see how they respond. The Scorecard is an easy, step-by-step, walk through each specific reform asked for by the Open Government Online Amendment. It was designed to put aside some of the Council’s arguments that they support open government but that they do not support this amendment and to get each one to commit to reforming our city government.

The lone official response that I have received so far is from Lee Leffingwell, and he declined to fill out the Scorecard.

Mr. Leffingwell almost immediately sent back a response by email. He actually refused to answer the Open Government Scorecard because he wants to keep his open government ordinances secret. I am not kidding. This was said without one single shred of irony.

Here is the exact language he used, when asked if he would answer which open government reforms laid out in the Open Government Online Amendment he supports:
I AM STILL IN THE DISCUSSION STAGE WITH REGARD TO WRITING THE ORDINANCE, AND SO CAN'T COMMENT ON ANY ASPECT OF YOUR SCORECARD AT THIS TIME.
You can read it for yourself here.

Apparently, it is important to keep discussions on open government a secret. Sounds more than a little funny to me. Secrecy must be a requirement of the job.

He wouldn’t commit to a timeframe for his plan to introduce his set of reforms either, leaving the voters with serious doubts as to whether he is just offering this possibility as yet another way to (ab)use his power as an elected official to try to dissuade the voters. When specifically asked about whether he would commit to opening up the City’s AMANDA system, which he seemed to say at the press conference, he declined to answer directly. He instead used a looser phrasing, saying only that this information “should” be posted online. Too bad he didn’t take the opportunity to address the more practical “how” and “when” rather than giving a bland wish to open up this process. The Open Government Online Amendment, however, does require this system to be open.

Leffingwell also seemed to acknowledge that the City's cost estimate is too high and their interpretation too broad when he stated he referred to the cost "potentially required" by the amendment. Now if he would just take the next step and realize what the OGO actually requires to be placed online and what THAT would cost, we would be approaching a rational debate on the topic. If he would fill it out, the Open Government Scorecard might help clarify things for him.

I went to check the mail this morning to see if anyone else had bothered to respond, but no Scorecards were waiting in the box. I called each Council member’s office to ask if they were planning on responding, but either got voicemail or a staffer saying that they will check on it. I am still holding out some hope that one of them will take a small amount of time to answer the simple questions I asked. But since I said April 3rd for a deadline, this is your update.

Email the council and tell them you want them to answer the scorecard.

7 Comments:

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Tim Jones said...

Here are seven misleading assertions regarding the Clean Water and Clean
Government amendments which have appeared in the press with corrections
by the proponents of the amendments.


Assertion:
1) "These charter amendments were written behind closed doors with
no public input, no vetting and no opportunity for changes to correct errors
and unintended consequences," says Lee Leffingwell, an Austin City Council
member who is former chairman of the city's Environmental Board.
From:
PAC organizes to oppose proposed amendments
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2006/03/20/daily23.html
2006.03.20 Mary Alice Kaspar, The Austin Business Journal

Correction:
1) "The amendments were written by citizens and professionals with
decades of experience in Texas open government, journalism and
watershed protection law and practice. They represent a broad coalition
of conservation and civic organizations, including Consumers Union,
Save Our Springs Alliance, ACLU, Austin Sierra Club, and others.
The entire text of the amendments has been public since last November
and is posted online at www.cleanaustin.org. We encourage everyone
to read the amendments and supporting information on what the
amendments do and also what they do not do."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
2) "The question we should be asking ourselves is: Do we want to spend
$33,000 in taxpayer money every single day of the week, in perpetuity,
to implement these amendments when our community has so many other
pressing needs?"
From:
PAC organizes to oppose proposed amendments
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2006/03/20/daily23.html
2006.03.20 Mary Alice Kaspar, The Austin Business Journal

Correction:
2) "Both measures will save Austinites tens and even hundreds of
millions of dollars. Business and governments,including the City of
Austin, are racing to do their work on the Internet because it is so much
more efficient. Giving the public a password to this information will cost
almost nothing. The city's cost figure ignores these savings and is grossly
inflated in order to scare voters.
By steering development away from the Barton Springs watershed, we
can avoid the need to spend over $1 billion of taxpayer dollars on new
toll roads and highway expansions proposed by TxDOT for the Barton
Springs watershed. For a fraction of this cost we can buy up proposed
traffic-generating development lands, avoid the need for most of these
expensive road expansions, and actually save, rather than pay to pave,
the Barton Springs watershed."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
3) "Leffingwell described the risk to progressive city programs like solar
rebates and SMART Housing by a ban on any "incentives" in the Barton
Springs Zone, and reiterated the "$36 million up front, and $1 million a
month" mantra that the city insists it will cost to implement the
instant-online portions of Prop. 2"
From:
Greens vs. Greens
http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-03-31/pols_point.html
Charter election rhetoric begins rising all around
BY MICHAEL KING
MARCH 31, 2006

Correction:
3) "The Save Our Springs Amendment does not limit any citywide social
or energy efficiency programs. It does prohibit the city from entering into
"development agreements" that subsidize development in the Barton Springs
watershed. The City's $36 million figure is not true; it is grossly inflated,
ignores savings, and was found by a Travis County judge to be unreliable."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
4) "Dunkerley argued that the cost estimates, rather than inflated, are more
likely too low, and will come at the expense of other pressing city needs,
from public safety to public health - concluding, "I am vehemently
opposed to these propositions."
From:
Greens vs. Greens
http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-03-31/pols_point.html
Charter election rhetoric begins rising all around
BY MICHAEL KING
MARCH 31, 2006

Correction:
4) "Dunkereley's claim is incorrect. The Open Government Amendment
will actually save the City considerable money by automating city business
and the disclosure of that business to the public. The Open Government
Amendment specifically calls for placing information online "to the greatest
extent practical" and in the pursuit of cost savings and efficiencies. It then
mandates a specific subset of information be made available to the public
online. The City's cost estimate ignores this plain language and instead
assumes that literally ALL city information must be placed online.
This intended misreading and the extreme cost figure is being used to divert
public attention away from the real benefits of online public access to city
information."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
5) "... McCracken itemized three reasons to oppose the amendments:
a) the excessive cost (a six-year estimate of $96 million);
b) the apparent ban on water/drainage infrastructure improvements in
southwest neighborhoods;
c) the "severe restrictions" on citizen privacy rights in e-mails and
discussions with city officials."
From:
Greens vs. Greens
http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2006-03-31/pols_point.html
Charter election rhetoric begins rising all around
BY MICHAEL KING
MARCH 31, 2006

Correction:
5) "All of these claims are false. Both measures will save Austinites
tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars. The SOS amendment
calls for prioritizing services to existing neighbors and not subsidizing
new development in the Barton Springs watershed. The Open
Government amendment specifically guarantees that citizen privacy
rights will be protected while assuring that public information is timely
and efficiently disclosed to the public."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
6) "Proposition 1 would require the city of Austin to carry out all of
its business online in real-time. The city estimates the cost to develop
technological infrastructure to support the amendment would be nearly
$50 million, according to the chamber."
From:
Austin chamber denounces proposed amendments
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2006/03/20/daily49.html
2006.03.20 , The Austin Business Journal

Correction:
6) "This claim is false. The Open Government Amendment will
actually save the City considerable money by automating city business
and the disclosure of that business to the public. The Open Government
Amendment specifically calls for placing information online "to the
greatest extent practical" and in the pursuit of cost savings and efficiencies.
It then mandates a specific subset of information be made available to
the public online. The City's cost estimate ignores this plain language
and instead assumes that literally ALL city information must be placed
online. This intended misreading and the extreme cost figure is being
used to divert public attention away from the real benefits of online
public access to city information."
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

-

Assertion:
7) "Proposition 2 would limit the abilities of the city of Austin and
private property owners to improve infrastructure in and around
Southwest Austin. The city would be forbidden from participating
in investment agreements to construct affordable housing and solar
energy rebates for new and existing developments in Southwest
Austin, the chamber says."
From:
Austin chamber denounces proposed amendments
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2006/03/20/daily49.html
2006.03.20 , The Austin Business Journal

Correction:
7) "This claim is false and is another example of opponents saying
the opposite of what the amendments provide. The actual language
of the Save Our Springs amendment provides that "City actions and
policies on highways and roads within the Barton Springs watershed
must prioritize watershed protection, along with safety and efficient
transportation for existing residents, and not significant capacity
expansion." The amendment limits the City's authority to enter into
individual agreements with developers that subsidize new development.
It does not limit in any way city programs providing social services
or energy efficiency rebates to residents." 
Bill Bunch
April 4, 2006

Posted by Tim Jones

 
At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 3:55 PM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

The last anonymous post is a TOTALLY unacceptable breach of copyright law, and I will be taking it down. If similar actions continue, I will be forced to enable comment moderation.

Copying an entire article on to a website is a breach of copyright. Look it up.

The appropriate way is to provide a LINK. It is also easier for the readers.

That being said, I would hardly call Mr. Black's piece an "analysis", especially when he can't even get the proposition number correct. Nowhere in it does he actually discuss the practical effects of the amendment using language in the amendment. He merely makes blanket statements and doesn't back them up.

A full analysis of the Black piece will be up on the main blog, with analysis and supporting documents.

 
At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is up with the Chronicle and all these environmentalists and Democrats opposing these amendments? Are y'all saying they're all corrupt?

 
At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SOS has jumped the shark.

 
At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that Colin Clarke, the director of SOS, is married to a law partner of Casey Dobson, who is the city's lawyer that will get paid to defend all the lawsuits that these amendments will cause. How is that not a conflict of interest?

 
At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

City council is afraid of the Open Govt amendment because they think they will have to disclose all the crap they have going with Stratus Properties and Advanced Micro Devices. These two companies have pretty much silenced an honest debate of the amendments by buying their way into the coffers of every media outlet, and all the prestigious cultural organizations in town. Even UT College of Communications took their money. Stratus Properties (formerly Freeport-McMoRan) pays a faux environmentalist (Mike Blizzard) to lobby for them. He's their tool to drive a big fat wedge into Austin's environmental activism. Freeport-McMoRan is famous for squashing environmentalists in Indonesia who protest their mining destruction. Stratus (aka Freeport) is trying to do the same right here in Austin.

 

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