Mayor Kevin Johnson should be more transparent with his private groups and nonprofits

Read Cosmo Garvin's reporting on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson's nonprofits and their overlap with city government at

The problem with good intentions is that we all know where they can lead.

That’s why, despite the good intentions of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s many initiatives and nonprofit organizations, the public is going to need a lot more transparency.

As detailed in last week’s feature story, “K.J. Inc.” by Cosmo Garvin, the mayor has a lot of great ideas about important issues—sustainability, the arts, homelessness, education—that he’d like the city to address. To that end, he’s established a number of nonprofit groups to do—well, we’re not really clear on that, although the groups mostly seem to be about facilitating discussion and funding for groups that already exist. And he’s been collecting donations to run those groups from his supporters, including some who have business before the city.

Because private nonprofits aren’t required to make the same sort of public disclosures and financial accounting that taxpayer-supported institutions do, we don’t really know all the details. What’s more, the mayor’s office has been less than forthcoming.

We understand that Johnson is a big fan of public-private partnerships. That’s not a bad thing. But he and his colleagues need to understand that when the public’s money is “partnered” with private investment, the entire operation needs to become more transparent. That is, it needs to operate more like a public enterprise and less like a private one.

So, Mayor Johnson, we call on you to keep things out in the open. Release all the records of your private initiatives and nonprofits—who works there, where the money to run them comes from, and what precisely they are doing. It’s the only way to be sure that your administration is above reproach.