Saturday, April 01, 2006

Statesman Editorials just can't get it right

Whoever is writing these editorials on open government just can't get it right.

In today's Statesman, in the Asides section, the writer mentions Thursday's decision by District Judge Stephen Yelenosky that the City of Austin's ballot language misrepresented the amendment. In describing the Open Government Online amendment, the writer states that it would:
"force city officials to reveal all conversations, e-mails and phone calls online instantly."

The judge specifically ruled this interpretation misleading.

Pay attention editorial writers. I know that what you write are opinions, but these must be based on facts. Judge Yelenosky specifically ruled that "the use of 'any' and 'all' where exceptions apply" is misleading. It was illegal for the City to frame this amendment as requiring all information to be online when only public information can go up. This means that the amendment protects your privacy rights because only public information is being considered. This is a simple matter of the pecking order of government. This amendment absolutely in no way, shape, or form requires information private by law to go online. Your medical records, library records, other private matters are protected by state and federal law. This is a fact.

It is also a fact that the amendment only has a relatively short list of information that is required to be placed online. Anything else, such as email, is up for Council to decide. This amendment does not require email to and from City officials to go online. If it goes up, it will be because your Council members want it to, not because of the amendment. This is a fact as well.

It is also misleading to say that it requires calendars and phone logs "instantly". The phrase used is real time. Much has been made of this phrase, and we have discussed it here. The end result is, that Council defines it by ordinance. It is not instant and it only applies to calendars, phone logs, and certain development information. It is a goal and a standard for the Council to use, so that they do not delay reporting their activities or developer information untill such time as it is meaningless. Every other item is to be placed online is on a basis that Council is free to decide. This is a fact too.

Everyone welcomes free and open debate about the amendment. That is what we are supposed to have in a democracy. Part of that free and open debate is an ethical opinion page that will use facts to form their opinions and a Council that won't use their position as a bully pulpit.


At 10:15 AM, Blogger Mike said...

You're neglecting the more likely interpretation that they don't WANT to get the meaning right. They make most of their advertising money from greenfield real estate developers who are the ones who benefit from the activity you're trying to bring to light.


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