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When it comes to actual sunshine, San Diego has the strongest game in the country. When it comes to metaphorical sunshine — a term journalists use to refer to government transparency — the results are a little more mixed.
Last week was Sunshine Week, a fake holiday but one journalists actually celebrate: It’s an annual opportunity to remind the public and ourselves how much information the government hides from view or makes difficult to obtain. Remember, you paid for all the City Hall records, all the police body camera footage, all the public employee emails, etc.
Several politicos and journalists celebrated Sunshine Week, to varying degrees of success. Here’s a rundown.
The city kicked off the week by unveiling a new, more accessible website. One feature that caused a stir: a new Public Records Act portal. According to KPBS:
That portal will be the new way for journalists and members of the public to file Public Records Act requests. Instead of emailing their requests, people seeking information will now fill out an online form.
That also means that when the documents they’ve requested are ready, those documents will be posted online in the portal instead of sent by email.
This was a bit controversial: While it presumably will make the records easier to access, it also means that requests journalists make will be more easily accessed by other people. The city says that when it produces the records requested, it will make them exclusive to the person requesting them for three days, then public to everyone. So if you’ve been working on a big investigation, you have three days to plug the records into it before everyone else can see the info. (If you’ve seen the movie “Spotlight,” recall Mark Ruffalo racing back to a Boston courthouse from a trip reporting on Sept. 11, when he discovers information he’s been seeking will suddenly be made public.)
Then there was City Councilman David Alvarez, who celebrated the week along with journalists, a welcome bit of understanding from inside the halls of power. He posted short #SunshineWeek videos all week, but one was a bit more ironic than he probably planned. As he was panning around his office, his camera rested on an agenda for the next day’s Metropolitan Transit System board meeting.
“I can’t show you this,” Alvarez said, as he turned the paper over. “It’s confidential, it’s for closed session.”
Then there was a Union-Tribune story that highlighted the varying response times and cost estimates they got for a series of requests made to various agencies. The request asked the agencies to search their email records for words like “yikes,” “OMG” and “what a disaster,” which is basically the journalism equivalent of Googling the phrase “fully written and researched term paper” instead of you, know, actually researching and writing a term paper.
What VOSD Learned
Large homeless encampments are becoming an increasingly conspicuous feature of downtown life. Complaints about the encampments are also prompting broader sweeps, which worries homeless advocates.
Local Dems have a big decision to make in the race for city attorney. Andrew Keatts did an in-depth breakdown of the state of the race. The candidates landed a few extra jabs in Keatts’ new column on the world of local elections.
One person who isn’t mentioned as much in our city attorney story is Bryan Pease, one of the Democratic candidates. He does make a prominent appearance on a new episode of “This American Life,” though, for his work as a “pro-seal attorney guy.”
In other coastal animal news, SeaWorld dropped the bomb that it’s ending its orca breeding program. Lisa Halverstadt, who’s been covering the fallout from “Blackfish” for years now, wrote about what the news means for San Diego.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer made a splashy announcement during his 2015 State of the City speech: His office was partnering on a challenge that’d dole out a pretty penny to whoever had the best idea to fix a big problem in the city. How much? GLAD YOU ASKED!
Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts deemed Faulconer a “peacemaker” leader on the latest episode of the VOSD podcast.
This week, our coverage of local schools spanned the very beginning to the very end of kids’ experiences. Our new podcast, Good Schools for All, delved into the importance of preschool. And Mario Koran looked at the other end – graduation from high school – and some troubling signs about San Diego Unified’s strict new graduation requirements.
Development in downtown Oceanside is booming, without a resident revolt.
What I’m Reading
• ESPN goes inside the weird pyramid scheme fronted by Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and others.
• A rape kit in Berkeley did what it was supposed to do – it identified the rapist of two young women. The only problem: It was tested six years after the initial crime, allowing time for the man to attack again. (San Francisco Chronicle)
• At least two prosecutors who declined to charge police officers who killed unarmed black citizens have been voted out of office. (Buzzfeed)
• Sarah Kliff is one of the best health care journalists in the country. Her new piece on medical mistakes suggests there are often two victims in such cases – the patient, and the health care workers themselves. (Vox)
• Melissa Harris-Perry opens up about the demise of her MSNBC show. (Another Round)
• An incredibly detailed, revealing look at how Marco Rubio, “the Michael Jordan of American politics” as one GOP pollster puts it, missed his shot. (National Review)
• The making of “Crossroads.” (Broadly)
Line of the Week
“The horse looks more at ease and confident and believable than most women on the runway at awards shows. He doesn’t look like a joke. He really looks noble and regal and believable.” – Fashion expert Tim Gunn, weighing in on a horse wearing a tweed suit.