San Diego Unified’s decision to start deleting emails older than a year could be worse. The district had, after all, considered deleting them after six months.
That doesn’t mean it’s a good decision. It’s bad.
Emails are often the foundation on which many investigative stories are built. They’re so critical to how public business is conducted that earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled that even emails sent from an official’s private email address should be made public if they relate to public business.
But when Ashly McGlone posted her story on the district’s new policy, a reader on Reddit charmingly and respectfully questioned the value of public officials’ emails:
Remember when investigative journalists actually covered serious shit that people cared about? Corruption, deception, bribery, fraud, dangerous crimes. Instead of tattletales about school secretaries that deleted emails. … The “voice of san diego” would rather report on deleted emails that NO ONE cares about and will physically affect NO ONE. Such a joke.
Excellent use of scare quotes aside, this is hilariously ignorant of how reporting works, as email records are often the exact reason journalists are able to uncover corruption, bribery, fraud and dangerous crimes.
McGlone enlisted folks on Twitter to share some of the best stories revealed using public email records. Our staff alone has produced some really memorable ones, like the time a FieldTurf salesman tried to offer a kickback to an Oceanside school official, the time city officials lied about why they installed jagged rocks to deter the homeless, the time SANDAG officials freaked out when they discovered a huge problem with Measure A (but proceeded to mislead voters anyway) or the time a school board member demanded special treatment for her son.
Emails were also central to some of the biggest revelations about San Diego’s pension scandal, Laura Wingard pointed out on Twitter.
Other folks shared stories from across California in which emails were central, including a bananas story showing Rialto school officials praised and gave high marks to students who denied the Holocaust.
Given that these stories aren’t very flattering, it’s easy to see why officials might be eager to see emails wiped away.
But Kelly Davis made a good point on Twitter – for every crazy story revealed by emails, there are probably a dozen more that were never written at all because emails proved no wrongdoing occurred.
What VOSD Learned This Week
San Diego Unified isn’t the only local school district dealing with email transparency issues. Fallbrook Union Elementary School District fired an employee who refused to wipe the email archive system, and an appellate court this week agreed the district should pay more than $1 million as a result.
Meanwhile, the San Diego City Council is warily revisiting the issue of how San Diego Unified conducts school board elections, thanks to a County Grand Jury report.
Then there’s stuff the district is building. Its plans to tear down and rebuild Memorial Prep in Logan Heights have expanded, and so has the price tag. Work on Encanto Elementary also went way over budget as the contractor in charge simultaneously dealt with financial issues.
The politicians who make up SANDAG’s board are angry staffers didn’t make it clearer to them that the agency deceived voters in 2004.
In other politics news, Scott Lewis rounded up three big political storylines he’s keeping an eye on. The Sacramento Report games out the race to fill Sen. Joel Anderson’s seat and Prop. B’s trip to the Supreme Court. And on the VOSD Podcast, Councilwoman Georgette Gomez talks about her housing plan, which includes a 2018 ballot measure to fund affordable housing.
Many cities in the state are moving to ban Styrofoam, but San Diego went in the other direction – starting a Styrofoam recycling program. Turns out a company that makes Styrofoam “spent over $200,000 in recent years donating to local political campaigns and lobbying the San Diego City Council.” Unlike most recycling programs, this one will cost the city money.
Then there are issues that the City Council simply can’t come to a decision on – like vacation rentals. Though they’ve been the center of attention for years, confusion and lack of policy still reign.
New mixed-use developments are coming to southeastern San Diego, an area that has long tried to court new businesses. But many community leaders worry the neighborhood will simply swap old abandoned storefronts for new abandoned storefronts.
Speaking of new businesses, the newly legal marijuana industry is taking off. For our “I Made It in San Diego” podcast, Scott Lewis talked with a serial entrepreneur who has turned his attention to the pot business.
What I’m Reading
One of the biggest battles in sports right now is the race to create the perfect sports bra. (This article gets bonus points for inclusion of the term uniboob.) (Bloomberg)
We’ve heard a loooooooooooot about Sen. John McCain this week. But I was grateful to have found this story focusing on the partnership between Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, the other two Republican senators who helped defeat the latest Affordable Care Act repeal effort. (The Guardian)
A new batch of World War II-themed films is hitting theaters. We should pay attention to the warnings and lessons they offer. (Esquire)
The news cycle is so crazy now that big stories immediately get dwarfed by bigger stories. This explosive new study about the prevalence of brain disease in pro football players already seems like it came out ages ago, but it’s a big deal. (ESPN)
A deep dive on William H. Regnery II, “the most influential racist you’ve never heard of.” (Buzzfeed)
Last Sunday, the New York Times profiled Bozoma Saint John, a former Apple executive hired to help right the ship at Uber. It’s a breezy read. That’s a problem, notes this searing critique of the Times piece and the ways in which we discuss even the highest-level women in technology. (New York Times, Quartz)
Line of the Week
“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac. … ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’” – This was a sentence said ON THE RECORD by the WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR. I cannot begin to describe the rest of this article to you, please please read it for yourself.