Notice: This is not a City of Long Beach site.

Dear Readers: Please note that this is not a City of Long Beach website and is not paid for nor maintained by taxpayer funds.

If you contact Gerrie Schipske through this site on any matter pertaining to the City of Long Beach, a copy of your contact will be forwarded to her official city email as an official public record.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

City Council Needs to Come Clean if We Are Truly Supporting Open Government

Last night, the Council approved two agenda items brought forth by Councilman Robert Garcia and me that would further open up City Hall to the public by requiring a full and transparent city website that is based upon the 10 points suggested by and by providing a means where by residents can make comments on line about pending agenda items.

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.
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.
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.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Schipske and Garcia Propose More Openess at City Hall

For Immediate Release


Daniel Brezenoff, Office of Councilmember Garcia

(562) 570 5843

Tiffany Andrews, Office of Councilwoman Schipske

(562) 570 6854

Councilmembers Garcia and Schipske Cosponsor Open Government Initiatives

Council to consider posting contracts and budget information, other reforms

Long Beach, CA

December 30, 2010 – Long Beach Councilmembers Robert Garcia and Gerrie Schipske, of the First and Fifth Districts, respectively, have cosponsored a series of “Open Government Initiatives" to increase transparency and accountability in Long Beach government.

The two motions are on agenda for the Council meeting of January 4, 2011.

The initiative proposes multiple reforms, including the adoption of an open government policy statement for the City, posting completed contracts on line, a system for on line public comments during Council meetings, and a variety of changes to the City website, such as posting budgetary information, information about lobbyists, and access to government records and public documents.

“Openness in government is what makes democracy possible,” Garcia said. “Citizens have a right to a transparent and accessible government."

Councilwoman Schipske said, "Since coming to City Council I have tried to take the Thomas Jefferson approach to local government. He said quite clearly that 'Information is the currency of Democracy' and it should be our approach as well here in Long Beach."

Schipske noted that Long Beach doesn't have to look too far for a model of website transparency adding that the County of Los Angeles has received an A+ rating from for its website. "Long Beach is almost there but we need to add a few more features so that the public doesn't have to ask for information -- it will be already there on line."

Councilmembers Garcia and Schipske have a record of open government reforms. Both have long posted their calendars on line for the public to view, and they cosponsored the first and only lobbyist registration law in Long Beach.

Save Station 18

Popular Posts