Mayoral candidate Steve Francis today unveiled a package of ideas that he says will make City Hall more transparent, proposing that all meetings and conversations between lobbyists and top city officials be disclosed on the city of San Diego’s website within 48 hours.

He also proposed publishing the city’s budget in what he called a “user-friendly” format online. Finding ways to proclaim the budget transparent and open to the public has been at favorite pastime at City Hall in recent years.

The Francis camp said their idea would be different in that it would model itself after the state of Texas and Milwaukee County, which offer searchable, online databases that allow the public to sift through reams of information on government spending. (You can compare those with the way the city currently displays its budget online.)

Mayor Jerry Sanders, for his part, has laid stake to the claim that he’s produced the first-ever transparent budget.

“My goals as mayor will be to expand the public’s access to City Hall, increase disclosures of government spending and prohibit special interest groups from influencing policy decisions,” Francis said.

The businessman would also: post every contract of more than $25,000 the city has with an outside vendor and lease deals on the web; require committees proposing changes to the city charter to post campaign contributions online within 48 hours; hold at least half of all Planning Commission meetings in the evening and at least one a month outside of City Hall; and prohibit campaign consultants from having ownership in lobbying firms.

Francis wants to also publish the mayor and senior staff’s calendars on the web weekly, remove drawing council districts from the City Council’s hands, and discuss giving back the city’s luxury boxes to the Padres and Chargers. He said he would put the money gained from the luxury boxes into the pension system, but didn’t have a precise figure on how much that could save. He estimated it at “several hundred thousands of dollars.”

As an example of what he called unsavory influences of special interests at City Hall, Francis listed the creation of a tourism marketing district for hoteliers that allowed them to increase hotel room taxes by 2 percent without going to voters and noted the industry’s support of Sanders.

He faulted the hoteliers for opposing the tax increase in 2004, saying it would’ve gone to fire protection, and then supporting it when the proceeds went directly back to the industry’s coffers.

“I think it’s disgraceful and disgusting,” he said.

However, the group of hoteliers did in fact support a 2004 measure that would’ve specifically raised money for such things as public safety and the arts. That failed at the ballot. When a second measure was attempted later that year, the tax proceeds would not have been set aside for any specific cause, and the hoteliers opposed the measure. It also failed.

Despite the transparency theme, Francis refused to disclose an up-to-date tally on how much of his personal wealth he’s spent on the campaign. As of his last filings last month, Francis reported giving his campaign more than $1.3 million. He said he knew the figure, but wouldn’t disclose it because he didn’t want to tip off his competition.

Francis also threw in this tidbit: He supports giving cost-of-living wage increases to the non-public safety workers who appear headed for a contract stalemate with the current mayor.


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