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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

City Gave Lobbyist the Go-Ahead to Push For Controversial Assembly Bill -- Or Did It?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Whether you're a king or just a street-sweeper, sooner or later you dance with the ... State Legislation Committee
  • Whether you're a king or just a street-sweeper, sooner or later you dance with the ... State Legislation Committee
We've written a bit about how San Francisco recently officially lobbied for a state Assembly bill that would limit public access to government data. AB 1336 would allow cities to mount cameras on street-sweeping vehicles to bust parking scofflaws -- but declares the resultant footage is not subject to the California Public Records Act, making it inaccessible to the public.

Government transparency advocates claim the city has violated its own Sunshine Ordinance by using San Francisco funds to "support any lobbying efforts to restrict public access to records,

information, or meetings ..."

Yet this was no rogue effort, and it was not swathed in government secrecy. San Francisco has a State Legislation Committee, which determines whether or not the city's Sacramento lobbyists should support or oppose pending bills. And on March 30, the committee voted to support AB 1336. It warrants mentioning, however, that the version of AB 1336 which received San Francisco's official thumbs-up bears scant resemblance to the bill's current version. In fact, the March 30 version doesn't contain a word about street-sweeper cameras, let alone denying public access to the footage they capture. 

Back in March, when the Municipal Transportation Agency was pushing to secure San Francisco's support for the bill, AB 1336's ostensible goal was simply to extend the an existing law allowing the city to use video footage to enforce parking laws by one year. Sounds harmless enough (even though, as SF Weekly pointed out later, lobbying for that law also appeared to violate the city's Sunshine Ordinance).

In any event, that's a far cry from what AB 1336 became via a series of amendments and revisions. Language was inserted about digital cameras on street-sweepers and how whatever they might uncover was not privy to the eyes of reporters, activists, or anyone else not working for the state. Yet San Francisco is still listed as an official "supporter" of the legislation.

So far, our efforts to determine if the city's State Legislation Committee still supports AB 1336 have been unsuccessful. The committee is composed of representatives from the offices of Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisors David Chiu and Michela Alioto-Pier, the city attorney, assessor, and treasurer. San Francisco city government is enjoying a weeks-long break right now -- hey, it's Burning Man! -- so we were only able to get ahold of David Noyola, Chiu's legislative aid and representative on the committee.

And he didn't want to weigh in without consulting his boss, who's at Burning Man (just kidding -- Chiu is attending a world leadership forum in China).  


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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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