Maybe you want to know how many noise violations that obnoxious bar around the block has gotten, but you don’t want to file a public records request.
Maybe you want to see if big companies are giving gifts to politicians, but you don’t have time to sift through so many documents.
Maybe you’re curious about how many potholes the city has fixed in your neighborhood.
San Diego City Council’s Rules and Economic Development Committee is developing a policy that may make it easier to get answers quickly.
Bipartisan support is forming behind plans to take information maintained by government agencies and put it in a form that residents can view and analyze with free online tools.
Democratic Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, who chairs the Rules Committee, has penciled in two possible dates for the committee to vote on a draft open-data policy this fall: Oct. 22 or Nov. 6.
Along with Lightner, Republican Councilmen Kevin Faulconer and Mark Kersey, who sit on the Rules Committee, and interim mayor Todd Gloria, a Democrat, have expressed support for an open and transparent city data policy.
If the Rules Committee approves a draft policy, it would go to the full City Council for a vote.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any opposition,” Kersey told VOSD.
Gloria said in an email statement that residents would see “demonstrable progress” in developing an open-data policy while he is mayor.
“The range of options is limitless, but the city’s available resources are not,” Gloria said. “I look forward to beginning this effort by posting available information and documents on the city’s website and maintaining timely updates while developing a strategy that addresses the historical information and archives of public interest.”
Faulconer, who is among the candidates running to replace former Mayor Bob Filner in a special election, said in an emailed statement he believes an open-data policy would be “an important step in improving transparency” in San Diego’s city government.
“Civic volunteers stand ready to use public data to inspire positive change,” Faulconer said. “A good starting point is making machine-readable budget documents and real-time data on infrastructure projects available online.”
San Diego lags behind other large cities when it comes to open data. But Kersey, a technology entrepreneur who is serving his first City Council term, sees an opportunity to develop one of the best open-data policies in the nation.
“The good thing about being so far behind is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Kersey said.
Kersey said he was in discussions with Gloria’s office to make sure the city’s information-technology department has the resources to host data on a city website for download.
Jeff Kawar, deputy director of the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, said he is researching open-data policies in other cities to determine how a San Diego policy could most benefit the public at large here.
Kawar plans to release the report to the Rules Committee before it votes this fall.