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Voters extend reach of open government ordinance

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    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Freedom of Information         Nov 18, 1999    

Voters extend reach of open government ordinance

  • Voters in San Francisco approved the creation of an appeals process when records requests are denied, along with new provisions for posting government meeting agendas and minutes on the Internet.

In municipal elections held in early November, San Francisco voters approved changes intended to broaden the scope of that city’s Sunshine Act and to create greater public access to city records.

Slightly more than 58 percent of voters — 95,616 out of 164,015 votes cast — approved the measure, known as Proposition G, at the polls Nov. 2.

While Proposition G had received widespread support from elected officials, candidates, citizen groups and media organizations, the current mayor, Willie Brown, and the San Francisco Chronicle did not support it.

Among the changes to the 1993 Sunshine Ordinance that Proposition G brings are the creation of a process to appeal denials of records requests, the posting of city meeting agendas and minutes on the Internet, and the disclosure of public contract bidding processes.

Under the new law, the city will be required to create an index to its records to facilitate public access to them. Proposition G also eliminates a loophole that previously allowed the city to refuse to give out documents without explaining why in any detail; city officials now must cite a specific exemption that allows them to withhold a record.

Supporters of the amendments said they were needed to bring greater public oversight to crucial municipal functions, especially areas such as the letting of city contracts, a process that traditionally has not been open to the public. Detractors, however, claim the new law poses a threat to the personal privacy of city officials and residents by requiring disclosure of information and personal and professional relations that previously were kept private.

(Proposition G)

© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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