EDITORIAL Kirsten Gillibrand, a newly elected member of Congress from Hudson, NY, has made a simple promise that could have dramatic impacts — and that should serve as a model for public officials like Mayor Gavin Newsom. Gillibrand, according to the New York Times, has promised to post her work calendar — all of it, including the names of lobbyists she's met with — on the Web at the end of every day. It's hardly an onerous task — any competent staffer can do the work in a matter of minutes. And it will, she says, give her constituents a clear idea of what she's doing to earn her public salary.
There's a broader benefit, of course: by releasing a full account of how she spends her time, Gillibrand will go a long ways toward eliminating what the Times calls "the secrecy that cloaks the dealings of lawmakers and deep-pocket special interests." A broad-based move like this will help restore voters’ faith in government — a huge deal for the Democratic Party and for the future of American politics. Incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi ought to join Gillibrand and direct the rest of the House Democrats to do the same.
And we hope Mayor Newsom is paying attention.
Newsom is not a terribly accessible mayor. His public appearances are typically crafted to give him the spotlight without any potential for embarrassment. He's refusing to comply with the will of the voters and appear before the Board of Supervisors to answer questions. And despite the provisions of the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, he continues to resist publicizing his full schedule.
Wayne Lanier, a retired scientist who lives in the Haight Asbury, has been trying for some time to get the mayor's calendar and on Dec. 11 filed a complaint with the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. What Lanier wants ought to be pretty straightforward information: there's no reason the mayor can't provide a list of whom he met with last week and whom he's scheduled to meet with next week. But even when the mayor has provided that sort of information in the past, it's been limited and spotty: all kinds of supposedly private meetings don't make the list. It's a good bet he's involved in all manner of talks with lobbyists and deep-pocket interests who are never publicly identified.
Newsom is up for reelection next year and so far has no visible challengers. So it's even more important that he not duck public requests for information. He should do exactly what Gillibrand promises to do: tell the public, promptly and without undue redaction, just how he's spending his time.SFBG