Shutting Down S.F.'s Sunshine Task Force
Good government in The City That Knows How is seriously jeopardized not by the likes of conservative forces at the Republican Party or Fox News or the Tea Party, but by the 11-members of the Board of Supervisors and the City Attorney's Office. Our commitment to open government and open books is under attack, and the person leading efforts to dismantle or at least considerably neuter the sunshine panel is gay Supervisor Scott Wiener.
Despite their misguided endorsement of anti-sunshine advocate and deputy city attorney Matt Dorsey for the Democratic County Central Committee, the Bay Guardian has provided effective watchdogging of Wiener's dangerous tinkering with the sunshine panel.
This week, Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann has penned an editorial calling much-needed attention to the latest good government troubles that can be laid at the feet of Wiener and his Board colleagues. [Correction: The editorial was written by Tim Redmond, editor of the paper.]
I'm sharing a good chunk of Brugmann's thoughts because I agree with them and also to bring another ray of sunshine to bear on the diminishing of good government here:
The unwillingness of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to follow the City Charter's rules on open government has reached a new level of absurdity: The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force voted July 11 to stop meeting, because the supervisors wouldn't appoint the legally mandated members.
Technically, the fuss is over a provision in the law creating the Task Force that mandates one member must be a physically disabled person with a demonstrated interest in open-government issues [...]
But the supervisors refused to reappoint Bruce Wolfe, a longtime task force member who met that criterion — and who had the respect of independent and progressive leaders all over town [...]
So the City Attorney's Office advised the task force that it would be violating the charter if it met and took any action — and although the chance that the courts would invalidate task force decisions might be slim, the members could face fines. So the panel did the prudent thing and quit meeting.
Now, for all practical purposes, there is no Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, and it will be in legal and political limbo until the supervisors appoint a disabled member.
That follows on the heels of the board refusing — for the first time since the creation of the task force in 1999 — to seat the nominees of the Society of Professional Journalists, New American Media, and the League of Women Voters [...]
So the agency that it supposed to protect the public's right to access records and meetings has been stacked with City Hall-friendly appointees and now is unable even to hear complaints [...]
The supervisors are demanding that SPJ, NAM and the League submit new lists of nominees, with multiple names, which is unprecedented and difficult: These grassroots groups are supposed to line up a group of volunteers for a difficult, time-consuming, unpaid job — then tell them that all but one of them will be rejected by the supervisors? Who's going to want to be in that position?
The three organizations should hold their ground, resubmit their nominees and ask the supervisors to follow the City Charter. And the City Attorney's Office needs to offer some clarity here: Can the supervisors, in a fit of pique, shut down a Charter mandated watchdog agency? Really?