Introducing the Rochester City Government Transparency Act of 2019

2019 is here, a new council is here. It’s time for some major changes. Councilmember Campion and I teamed up to bring this new set of policies forward. Here is a link to the Rochester City Government Transparency Act of 2019 which will be on the City Council Agenda on Monday.

If you want this to pass contact your 2019 City Councilmember. Less than 1 year ago many of these measures failed the council. This is not the 2018 Mayor and Council so let’s not screw this up.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • All meetings must be held in an accessible locations with sufficient capacity to accommodate all public attendees including those with disabilities.
  • All official city council meetings will be required to be live streamed, video recorded, and archived. Currently most of our official meetings where discussion took place were NOT video recorded.
  • Taxpayer funded meetings held offsite are now effectively banned. These were discontinued after the State Auditor commented on the inappropriateness of this practice, however we never formally ended them and both Mayor Brede and Council President Staver express a desire to restart these meetings. Myself and Councilmember Campion were accused of “Pulling a Kaepernick” for protesting these meetings.
  • Public Board & Commission meetings will also be video recorded and archived.
  • All recordings must be of a quality whereby comments and materials must be understood and attributed to the person making the comments.
  • The City will create rochestermn.gov/transparency
  • At committee meetings the Council will be seated around a table.

So you might wonder why we aren’t already doing this. Well, a number of elected and appointed officials have opposed much of this in the past. Here who as opposed local government transparency measures in the past:

  • Former Mayor Ardell Brede – Vetoed transparency measures in 2018 and called “Transparency” “An Overused Word.” Wanted to continue dinner meetings and discussion with no public record.
  • Former Councilmember Ed Hruska – Voted against transparency measures in 2018, voted to sustain the Mayor’s veto.
  • Former Councilmember Mark Hickey – Voted against transparency measures in 2018, voted to sustain the Mayor’s veto. Specifically commented that our official committee meetings did new need better access nor recordings.
  • Former City Administrator Stevan Kvenvold – A persistet and vocal opponent of transparency. Over the years he fought against audio recordings of committee meetings, live streaming of meetings, holding dinner meetings in accessible locations, stopping dinner meetings, having agendas and minutes at all meetings, and making more data public. The final straw for me was when he would suggest how much financing we should give to developers in the dinner meetings with no on around. At one of these meetings he even looked at a media person there and said don’t report this.
  • Former City Attorney Terry Adkins – No position on most the other issues but was a supporter of the dinner meeting practice until the State Auditor crackdown.
  • Council President Randy Staver – He actually voted for the transparency measures in 2018, and then after the Mayor vetoed the measures, he changed his vote without an explanation so as to sustain the veto block the public from seeing most of our official meetings. Stop and think about this… This happened in 2018… This is not OK.

Who knows where Staver will land on this, and frankly I don’t care. I hope the rest of the Council makes this a solid 6-1 vote and sticks one more nail in the coffin of “Government hidden from the people” in 2019.

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