A Mindful Walk Down a Dark and Slippery Slope

by on March 3, 2014 · 0 comments

in Civil Rights, Politics, San Diego

public-has-a-right-to-know1By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner

Here’s what the Zen manual advises for a stress-free existence: notice… let it go… then smile.

Truth is, I’m not ready for bliss. And it’s not for lack of trying. You know how it is once you’ve noticed certain things… how can you let them go? Maybe tomorrow.

Right now I can’t help noticing someone’s big bad joke. Here’s how it goes:

A guy walks into a bar, orders a beer on tap, and announces that the annual advent of Sunshine Week is just around the corner. That’s the time when good-thinking people (journalists included) spend a few days promoting the public’s right to know what goes on behind the thick curtains of government. Some call it transparency.

The point of Sunshine Week is to remind citizens that we need and have the “right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business,” and moreover that the “meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.” You could call it an indispensable tenet of democracy.

So the bartender says to the guy, “Bad timing, fella. Last guy who walked in here with that kind of talk got the kishkes knocked out of him. The bigshots concocted a chorus line of big and little ladies to nail him for ogling and they walloped him black and blue. Poor schnook — he may have been a great political liberal but everyone knows you’re your own worst enemy if you’re a lousy flirter. He’s a pariah, now.”

So the guy gulps down another home brew and says to the bartender, “Fooled ya baby! I’m really here to report that Sunshine Week’s been rained out — by executive order. Your pretender-to-the-throne Todd Gloria just set the date for a City Hall book burning. Who would’ve thought such an up-and-coming Democrat could be so… undemocratic.”

It’s a true story. The joke’s on us. Council president Todd Gloria waited till his next-to-last day as placeholder for Bob Filner’s vacated mayor’s seat to decree that city emails older than one year shall be automatically deleted. Discarded. Purged. Deep-sixed.

Is this his idea of what a “strong mayor” is all about, making up regulations to deliberately shut out the public?

DATE: February 27, 2014

TO: All City Employees

FROM: Todd Gloria, Interim Mayor

SUBJECT: Administrative Regulation 90.67, Electronic Mail (E-mail) Retention and Deletion

On February 27, 2014, Administrative Regulation (A.R.) 90.67 regarding e-mail retention and deletion was implemented. As noted in A.R. 90.67, e-mails that are older than one year will be automatically deleted from the City’s E-mail Systems. To date, the City has not deleted e-mails and this has resulted in our City E-mail Systems being overburdened. This A.R. was implemented to address the storage capacity issues which, if unaddressed, would require the City to purchase hardware for additional storage capacity in the future.

On March 28, 2014, the Department of Information Technology will begin automatically deleting e-mails that are older than one year from the City’s E-mail Systems. Furthermore, e- mails will also be deleted on a daily basis if the e-mails are older than one year. E-mails deleted from the City’s E-mail Systems will be permanently unavailable unless City staff takes affirmative steps to retain them outside of the City’s E-mail Systems…

The California Constitution states that “the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny” but apparently certain people in San Diego don’t think public scrutiny is such a great idea, after all.

Surely I’m not alone in wondering whether Mr. Gloria et. al. (the City Attorney and a top city official signed off on this scorched-earth plan) have some serious personal concerns about the contents of City email communications, calendars, and memos from the time period before, leading up to, and during Bob Filner’s abbreviated mayoral stint in office.

Does it make you wonder what might be lurking in these communications? fundraising shenanigans? issues involving the (former and/or newly appointed) police chief? impetuous amorous exchanges? permit improprieties? collusion to oust a sitting mayor? Do you wonder why “the writings of public officials” are to be deleted before the public can lay eyes on them?

It’s a dark and slippery slope, a new low for San Diego, when destroying public records becomes standard operating procedure.

Fortunately, our new mayor Kevin Faulconer has the power to restore the City’s integrity by immediately rescinding Administrative Regulation 90.67. We’re impatiently waiting and watching.


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