City Hall lets the water info flow
Well, this doesn’t happen every day. SN&R is not a big daily paper with a bunch of lawyers on the payroll. When we have a disagreement with a government agency about the public’s right to know and access to public records, we’ve mostly got just our words and our 206,000 (or so) weekly readers to back us up.
And so, when that agency says, “You’re right. Our bad,” it’s a pretty happy day around here.
If you’re just tuning in, we’re talking about a tiff that began last month, between SN&R and the city of Sacramento, over access to water-meter records for the largest water users in town.
The city decided it didn’t want to release those records to SN&R—even though they are all big commercial and government facilities—saying such disclosure is not required by the California Public Records Act.
A fight ensued—mostly involving me hunched over my keyboard muttering, “Un-$#@*!%-believable.”
At that point, I decided to go ahead with one additional request. Seems that the California Public Records Act does require the city specifically to disclose the water-meter records of certain elected officials who have power over water policy.
I heard that some city council members were less than comfortable with turning over their water bills to SN&R, so I explained in email to the council members and their staff, “If you think it’s a little ironic (or even a little ridiculous) that the City Utilities Department and the City Attorney will turn over your water meter records, but will refuse to disclose how much water is being used by Dr. Pepper, or Mercy Hospital, or some city golf course, I think you are probably right.”
That might have shaken some things loose, or just made them worse. Who knows. But I do know that some council members and city staff were on our side, and eventually utilities director Marty Hanneman made the decision to go ahead and release the records we were after. Hurray!
In fact, the city has not only agreed to provide the list of large water users to SN&R, but has posted them online as well. The city’s Utilities Department does warn us that just because a particular business is high on the list, it doesn’t mean they’re wasting water. Just so you know. Take a look, at www.cityofsacramento.org/utilities/water/Top25WaterUsers2010.cfm.
Compiled from Snog.