Amid Growing Open Records Controversy, Mayors Promise To Comply With Law
Update Thursday: The Governor and Legislature have now backtracked on pushing the Public Records Act changes through.
There’s a growing controversy in Sacramento over a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that would change California’s open records laws.
The language, contained in one of the so-called trailer bills that lawmakers passed alongside the state budget last week, gives local governments the option to: ignore requirements to respond to requests within 10 days; provide electronic versions of records if they’re available; and provide assistance to records-seekers who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for.
As the San Diego Union-Tribune describes it, the proposal “would save money by reducing costs for local governments, some of which might have been billed to the state.”
Critics are warning the changes – which await Brown’s signature or veto – would “eviscerate” open records laws. But during an appearance at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, the mayors of nine of California’s largest cities promised they’d continue complying with the state’s records mandates.
“We don’t expect to get reimbursed from the state” for handing records requests, said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “We’re so many years from that. That shouldn’t stop us from doing it. I think that nothing is going to change as far as record requests in the city of San Francisco.”
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said the open records language came up during the mayors’ meeting with Brown. “All of us agreed… we’re all going to comply with the Public Records Act,” he told reporters. “We’re all going to use best practices. We would love for the state to reimburse us, but they haven’t been doing it anyway. It’s good government, it’s transparency, and all of us will continue to do that.”
Lee and Foster were joined by the mayors of Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, Anaheim and Santa Ana, as well as Los Angeles Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti.
The gathering of mayors had its awkward moments. At one point, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner jokingly thanked Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for offering to accept all of California’s newly released prisoners, or as he called them, “prison guys.”
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson broke the brief silence by pointing out Filner was “a rookie mayor.”
“My sense of humor has not … gone over yet with San Diegans,” Filner replied.