PUBLIC INFORMATION — Despite a provision in its Sunshine Ordinance forbidding spending to support lobbying for more secrecy in state law, San Francisco's representatives in Sacramento won passage of a bill that keeps confidential the photos taken by city cameras of vehicles parked in transit-only lanes, reports Joe Eskenazi for SF Weekly.

Two years ago, the city paid its lobbying firm to push passage of a
law restricting public access to government data in violation of San
Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance.

"I think this is a very big deal," said Terry Francke, the general
counsel for the open-government group CalAware and drafter of the
city's Sunshine Ordinance. "The people who established the Sunshine
Ordinance wanted to make sure their efforts were not undercut by the
city's lobbyists going to Sacramento and trying to get more secrecy in
state law."

But it appears that's just what happened. In 2007, city-funded
lobbyists successfully pushed for AB 101, sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma
and the City of San Francisco. You may remember the hullabaloo around
this quirky law, which authorized the City of San Francisco —and no
other city—to install forward-facing cameras on Muni vehicles to
potentially bust ingrates who park in bus zones and the like.

And yet within the law AB 101 became is the explicit statement that,
California Public Records Act be damned, the images captured by those
cameras will remain confidential. Francke and other concerned
open-government activists are quick to point out, however, that the
Sunshine Ordinance clearly states: "Funds of the City and County of San
Francisco … shall not be used to support any lobbying efforts to
restrict public access to records, information, or meetings."

Steven Wallauch, a lobbyist who worked on behalf of the city on this issue, says legislators and even the ACLU
mandated that the video records be made confidential. Francke isn't
swayed. He doesn't see how one's privacy is violated by videos being
taken in a public place. And he's worried about what would happen if a
media or advocacy group demanded to see the videos to determine whether
the law is being applied even-handedly. Government employees
double-park or block bus stops all the time — but if outside parties
can't see the footage, who's to know?