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What The Mayoral Candidates Say About Open Government

It's no secret that during his 8-years in office, Mayor Jerry Sanders has made sure to keep reporters at bay, implementing a tight-lipped policy when it comes to the media. Sanders and his public relations team prevented staff in city departments from speaking directly to reporters, routing all inquiries through the mayor's office.

Even Sanders' own press secretary, Darren Pudgil, admitted to restricting media access.

"We don't let anyone in that we're not familiar with and, yes, we're very good about checking press credentials," said Pudgil during an interview with National Public Radio. "We're very open and we're very transparent, but we're very thorough in checking out who we let have access to the mayor."

And while Sanders and his staffers have made it a point to err on the side of caution when responding to the media, the administration has an entirely separate policy for the Reader. Since taking office Sanders has prohibited any city employees from speaking to the Reader.

I learned this back in 2008 when former press secretary Fred Sainz had this response to one of my inquiries:

"I appreciate your approach and apparent sincerity but we won't cooperate and let any employee under the mayor speak to anyone writing for the Reader. Thanks."

With Sanders on his way out, I wanted to hear from the two mayoral candidates about open government and media access.

In a July 17 email, councilmember Carl DeMaio was short and succinct. "I will not [retain the policy]. Department heads will be allowed to speak directly to the media."

And when asked whether he will grant the Reader access to City Hall, DeMaio responded: "Yes, I will continue to respond to the Reader.

Filner agreed, oddly enough, with DeMaio. He also had a few additional ideas.

"If, I mean when, I am elected there will be no enemies list at City Hall," said Filner during a July 16 phone call. "The public has a right to information. And, I can't be worried or concerned how the media, or anyone else, is going to use it."

One way that he plans to ensure public access is to enlist the help of former councilmember Donna Frye. "I plan to create an 'Open Government Department' which would be run by Donna Frye. The department will speed things up and make the City more transparent, not just for the media but for all members of the public. The department will make sure that information is not hidden and answers are provided in a timely fashion."

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It's no secret that during his 8-years in office, Mayor Jerry Sanders has made sure to keep reporters at bay, implementing a tight-lipped policy when it comes to the media. Sanders and his public relations team prevented staff in city departments from speaking directly to reporters, routing all inquiries through the mayor's office.

Even Sanders' own press secretary, Darren Pudgil, admitted to restricting media access.

"We don't let anyone in that we're not familiar with and, yes, we're very good about checking press credentials," said Pudgil during an interview with National Public Radio. "We're very open and we're very transparent, but we're very thorough in checking out who we let have access to the mayor."

And while Sanders and his staffers have made it a point to err on the side of caution when responding to the media, the administration has an entirely separate policy for the Reader. Since taking office Sanders has prohibited any city employees from speaking to the Reader.

I learned this back in 2008 when former press secretary Fred Sainz had this response to one of my inquiries:

"I appreciate your approach and apparent sincerity but we won't cooperate and let any employee under the mayor speak to anyone writing for the Reader. Thanks."

With Sanders on his way out, I wanted to hear from the two mayoral candidates about open government and media access.

In a July 17 email, councilmember Carl DeMaio was short and succinct. "I will not [retain the policy]. Department heads will be allowed to speak directly to the media."

And when asked whether he will grant the Reader access to City Hall, DeMaio responded: "Yes, I will continue to respond to the Reader.

Filner agreed, oddly enough, with DeMaio. He also had a few additional ideas.

"If, I mean when, I am elected there will be no enemies list at City Hall," said Filner during a July 16 phone call. "The public has a right to information. And, I can't be worried or concerned how the media, or anyone else, is going to use it."

One way that he plans to ensure public access is to enlist the help of former councilmember Donna Frye. "I plan to create an 'Open Government Department' which would be run by Donna Frye. The department will speed things up and make the City more transparent, not just for the media but for all members of the public. The department will make sure that information is not hidden and answers are provided in a timely fashion."

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Comments
1

Anything that brings Donna Frye back to city government is a wonderful thing. She also has good manners with the public. Perhaps she will be "Miss Manners" to Carl DeMaio - does he remain on the City Council if Bob Filner is elected mayor?

July 17, 2012

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