These proposals will give residents full access to the important information as detailed later in this post. The good news is that the City of Long Beach already provides a great deal of this information. The most important element lacking, however, is the "Checkbook" register which details how we spend the money. This is not budget information -- which is prospective -- it is as we go along information so that the public can see if we are truly spending money in the most appropriate manner.
On the floor last night, I brought up the fact that if the Council really wants to support open government then those of us who use non-City of Long Beach email to communicate City business, should include a cc in our email messages to our City email account so that the email becomes a public record. Otherwise we are not being fully open and transparent.
I have been doing just that because many people use the contact form on this blog or send me an email to my personal email (yahoo, earthlink, gmail).
Open government "advocate" Peter Scheer says it best about danger in letting electeds conduct government business by private email:
You don’t have to be a legal scholar to appreciate the size of the loophole that this practice creates. If all it takes to avoid the obligations of the Public Records Act, California’s freedom of information law, is to use a commercial email account for official communications, then all such communications–except the occasional anodyne and self-serving message actually intended for public consumption–will shift to that private channel. The Public Records Act, already porous with special interest loopholes, might as well be renamed the California Official Secrets Act.Scheer (see his full article by clicking here) proposes the following remedies about making communications open and transparent:
1) Agencies and local governments should set up one email account with gobs of storage capacity. To keep it simple and inexpensive, a corporate account (offering extra security) with Google or Yahoo will suffice.So, short of putting this item back on the agenda and forcing a public vote, I am asking our electeds to really get on board about open government by only conducting city business in emails that can become public records.
2) Agencies’ .gov email accounts, by default, should “bcc” all emails to the government database account.
3) All government employees should be instructed that, when using their own commercial email account for government matters, they must “bcc” their business messages to the database account (and forward incoming business email there too). Basically, any email that is not strictly personal should be copied to the online storage account.