Monday, May 01, 2006

Watson misrepresents OGO

The letter was recently sent by Karin Ascot to Kirk Watson


Dear former Mayor Watson,

I was disturbed to hear your misrepresentations on the robocall I received today with your voice recording. Opponents of the charter amendments (Props 1 and 2) have been using ridiculous tactics to scare people away from voting for open government, and it’s sad to know you have jumped on the bandwagon. I was particularly annoyed at two particular assertions you made.

In the first place, you are surely aware that the Open Government Online amendment would not invade people’s privacy. It would merely give citizens more insight into business at city hall. Yes, it might slow things down a bit and get a little messy, not what the mayor really wants when he’s in the midst of a big deal; but this is our government and our money, and the public process is important, even when inconvenient for elected officials.

Contrary to frequent assertions, the amendment does not require emails to go online instantly. The language 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.” It requires email to be archived. There is no Big Brother provision to bug phone calls of citizens to city hall. There is no requirement for a stenographer to be present when a council member meets with a developer, only a provision that the public is entitled to know that such a meeting occurred. The hysterical and exaggerated claims of your side certainly make a person wonder what there is to hide, as you all continue to distort the truth even in the face of Judge Yelenosky’s ruling.

Even more offensive, however, is your claim about the amendments being drafted in secret by a small group of people. -- Of course this objection is rather disingenuous, considering that SOSA and other non-profits do not, like the government, collect taxes and make laws, so it is really not the same thing at all as when council makes decisions without public input. -- But the real point is that you personally were contacted by SOS well before the petition drive began and were asked for your input; but you never took time to respond. It might be fair for you now to say you don’t support the amendments, but to complain about their being written in secret when you yourself were contacted multiple times is outrageous. For a seasoned attorney and council member like yourself, it should have been a matter of a couple of hours to analyze them and offer an opinion at a time when your comments could have been usefully incorporated. Instead you refused to participate. Your actions certainly throw your motives into question.

Karin Ascot


At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Not-crunchy Pat said...

There are nothing but toothless platitudes in this ordinance to ensure that average citizens' privacy will be protected. Absent is any legal definition of what is deemed off-limits with respect to this amendment, much less any specific sanction for violating it. Meantime, who the hell is paying the $36M for it?

Granola mafia indeed. SoS has become a sad caracature. Virtually decrying all land west of Mopac off limits for anything other than skinny-dipping and bicycling, while suggesting, for example, that AMD only consider sites on the east side or downtown for expansion smells just like white-flight NIMBY elitism to me, no matter how many progressive flags you wave.

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ not-crunchy Pat, You're repeating misleading arguments a judge said just weren't true. As you know, the City admitted under questioning in court the $36 million figure wasn't true and ordered them to strike it. A more credible independent estimate (which has since been affirmed by the same city IT official who first came up with the $36 million figure) puts the estimated cost closer to $2-3 million.

Privacy under the amendment would be protected to the same extent it is today - that's the point you're avoiding. Nothing in the amendment harms anyone's privacy, and couldn't by law.

At 2:42 PM, Anonymous not-crunchy pat said...

Small point, but who is going to be the arbiter of what is or is not private, particularly when the mandate is to have it posted in the ill-defined "real-time?" From my experience, lawyers aren't generally in the habit of delivering anything in a hurry. These days merely the disclosure of a private party's name absent express consent can be construed as an invasion of privacy, so in the end the lawyers will probably exclude most if not all of these types of private citizen communications anyway. And what will this have acheived then besides flushing yet another local election down the money hole?

Is it not ironic that the amendment supports open-ness in government yet it was drafted whole-cloth by a small group of private citizens with a fairly narrow agenda?

You guys are simply way off the mark on this. I support transparency in all the city deals, but this is like smashing a fly with a sledgehammer.

I will certainly vote against it.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Mick O' said...

Agreed mate! This is bonkers. That Livable City report doesn't even say this will cost less, it says a "more focused" plan would cost less.

Send this one back to the fry pan and cook it up better.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger JS Hatcher said...

pat wrote: "Small point, but who is going to be the arbiter of what is or is not private, particularly when the mandate is to have it posted in the ill-defined 'real-time?'"

First, review postings on this blog about real time. It is, far from being "ill defined" something that council will define through a set of ordinances.

Second, it is no "small point" about what is or isn't going to be private and who decides it. This amendment does nothing to change either of these.

Open records attorneys at the City decide, based on state and federal law, what is public and what is not. The "arbiter" is the Texas legislature, who passed the Public Information Act, and the people of Austin, when they vote for this amendment.

Mick 'O, you are simply repeating a thread from earlier. Please see

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Mick O' said...

Hel-LO! It repeats it mate, because you keep spreading the same falsehood.

Kind of like the one about the judge's ruling. The judge never called the cost estimate "false" or "misleading." You're making that up. He said it was "not sufficiently certain."

There's quite a difference there, young chap. You seem a bit green about the ears to me. How many years 'as it been since ye graduated the law school?

Seeings that, can you give us an example of when they City defined an undefined term in the charter with a "set of ordinances." I don't think you can, because it 'asn't happened.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger The Truth said...

More appropriate would be "Clean Austin Misrepresents OGO".

The judge never said wrong, just not sufficient information.

Real time or not, privacy will be removed for the average citizen. A policeman, fireman, trashman, are all city officials, and communications with them, whether it's reporting a suspicious person or a crime, will be posted for all, including the criminal, to see.

That will make the good samaritan sleep well...

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous The Lie said...

Anyone who tells you that a charter amendment can override state and federal privacy law is an idiot and a liar.

The judge specifically ruled that the Council's attempt at saying just this very same thing was illegal.

Charter amendments can't overturn state law! What is the point of having a constitution otherwise?

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the lie lies


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