Saturday, December 18, 2010

It’s About Time!

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

A demonstration version of the New Mexico Sunshine Portal website was rolled out Thursday by State Senator Sander Rue at a press conference at the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

Showing the ease of the site’s use, Department of Information Technology Cabinet Secretary Marlin Mackey explained the early release of the online version was for the public to use and make suggestions for improvements and additional information that should be put on the site. Mackey wants citizens’ input for the next 30-days so his department can make suggestions at the next Legislative session, which opens January 18. The law requiring the portal doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2011.

New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Sarah Welsh, applauded the site, telling how much easier it will be to search information that previously required a time consuming and burdensome process under the inspection of public records act.

She also had the Journals Opinion Guest Column Thursday morning, "Transparency Can Save Bucks.
Steve Schroeder of Real Time Sites, Inc., an Albuquerque based, firm developed the site with the intent for it to rival other states, which are considered to be state of the art. Being interviewed by Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico, Schroeder told the press conference he believes the site matches up well against the site from the state of Oklahoma, which was a 2009 finalist of Best of the Web and Digital Government Achievement Awards.

The media turned out in force: four network affiliated television stations,

Albuquerque Journal Political Writer Sean Olsen, above right, Journal Watch, Tracy Dingmann, seated left in the wide picture two photos above, and Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico. If there were other members of the media I did not recognize them.

Rio Grande Foundation President
 Paul Gessing, at podium, spoke about the benefit of the site towards the overall efforts to bring more transparency to government.

As a matter if disclosure RGF supported Capitol Report New Mexico and I worked on the editorial staff until RGF purchased the name and went on line with Nikolewski at its helm.

First term Sen. Rue, R-Bernalillo County, sponsored the Sunshine Portal Transparency Act during the 2010 regular legislative session. The bill passed the Senate unanimously 38-0.

House Majority Floor Leader Representative Ken Martinez D-Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan Counties, added an amendment to protect the identities of individual classified employees who might hold the same job title, but make different amounts of money.
"other than exempt employee positions, identified only by state agency, position title and salary; and the name of the individual that holds the position;".
The rational was to prevent squabbles amongst classified employees where, for a variety of reasons that are not immediately apparent, like years of service, some employees can make more money with the same job title.

The bill passed in the House 65-1.

Acting Governor Diane Denish signed the bill into law on March 5, 2010.
Denish was a proponent of a Sunshine Portal announcing her support for a bill Rep. Al Park D-Bernalillo County was contemplating sponsorship of the proposal. As President of the Senate, Denish can not directly propose legislation, but like every other proposal from the administration, a sponsor must introduce the bill to their chamber for consideration through the normal legislative process.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Lt. Governor Denish announcing her proposal for ethics reform in State Government. She was flanked by Rep Park, right and University of New Mexico Law School Ethic Professor Antoinette Sedillo López, left, on the steps of the State Supreme Court Building. The event was as much a campaign position announcement as it was that of the Lt. Gov.

The Sunshine Portal has some real limits:

It does not have any information online from past years.

Not accounting for records more than a year ago raises arguments that past practices, of a questionable nature, especially in areas that are now subject to federal and state criminal investigations, into possible awarding sole source bids to donors of Gov. Bill Richardson's gubernatorial and presidential campaigns or donations to his non-profit, Moving America Forward Foundation.

As a 501 (C) (3) non-profit, MAFF donors had no contribution limits and their identities were not subject to public disclosure. MAFF was founded to register new Hispanic and Native American voters.

In the picture above, Richardson receives an envelope at a presidential volunteer and fund raising rally in Albuquerque. There is no reason to believe other than this transaction is legitimate and traceable, but it is shown as a demonstration of the ease of transfer.

The weather for the roll out ironically was a dismal gray day with a steady rain.

“We don’t have any sunshine today it turned out to be a bad day to launch this thing,” Rue said. “If we were in Santa Fe today, we’d be walking through the snow to get here, but the sun will come out.”

This post’s title may have multiple meanings; it’s been a long time since I posted.

I haven’t been slacking.

I’ve been researching, and compiling information to produce a multiple-post series of case studies on governmental actions barring press coverage from: the gubernatorial campaigns, the City’s Public Information Officers, and how the Albuquerque Public School Board is going to great and questionable lengths in eliminating simple coverage of their activities.

This is what a violation of civil rights looks like. APS Police Sgt. T.A. Mora, Interim Chief Steve Tellez, and Officer K.L. Green, block a blogger's entry to a School Board meeting. The officers and even the School Board, president, a self proclaimed civil rights and media law attorney, Marty Esquivel, are totally oblivious of the meaning of the First Amendment’s, “or of the Press.”

There are additional views on how the White House Media Affairs Office handles media for a Presidential visit and we will visit the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s Board meeting to see what they are working on. You will meet the 2010 Dixon Award Winners at FOG’s annual banquet ceremony

Look forward to this series.

1 comment:

Michelle Meaders said...

Thanks for filling us in on the back story again. Did anyone else think it was wierd that this entirely State Government project was rolled out at the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce office?