As a result of the musical chairs debacle and other online misinformation campaigns, I submitted various open records requests with the city in order to attempt to ascertain what the facts were and what was political propaganda. On October 20, 2014, I submitted nine open records requests. On October 22, I submitted another five requests. Many of my requests were asking for the same information however I was sure to word it specifically enough, naming the appropriate individuals, in order to avoid the all too common response that there were no records meeting your request because I was not specific enough. This is a problem that I have encountered with the city before. Therefore, I submitted various requests asking for the same information but specifically naming individuals individually to avoid potential problems.
You might notice that I am now getting to writing about my open records requests – almost three weeks after I submitted them. This is because the city responded to the majority of my requests last week. Today I want to share with you the results of the open records requests and what my process is in trying to bring you information that might be useful to the public discourse.
Monday’s piece on the proposed water park was the result of an open records request. This request was submitted along with the others I mention in today’s article. Another request I submitted was asking for change orders in regards to the San Jacinto Plaza project and Basic IDIQ.
One of the things that I notice about public agenda discourse is that much of it is held based on erroneous information. It is my belief that the public discussion is distorted by public operatives whom I have labelled useful idiots in order to distract and or control the outcome of the debate. You may have noticed that in the last three weeks, or so, there was online discussion about how Basic IDIQ was using change orders to increase the fees it was being paid. As a result, I filed an open records request asking for copies of the change orders issued to it.
In tomorrow’s blog, I will update you on Basic IDIQ. You’ll be surprised as to what I found. However, instead of the rumors, I am sharing the details with you based on the public record, not innuendo. I also submitted a request in order to update my blog piece on contracts issued to David Karlsruher family’s business, especially now that Joyce Wilson is no longer the city manager. Another open records request was looking for information about some emails that were reportedly sent by some city representatives about Dame la Mano. However, the majority of my open records requests were a result of the musical chairs affair. Of the fourteen requests I submitted, eleven were seeking more information on the seating debacle.
I have already shared with you one of the requests. It had to do with the actual bids to add a station to the dais. Another was the proposed use of the Public, Educational and Governmental Access Broadcasting (PEG) budget line item.
In an El Paso Times article on October 13, 2014 by Diana Washington Valdez, Juli Lozano; “While the use of PEG funding is very limited, it can be used for all physical facilities and equipment associated with providing public, educational and governmental access channel capacity, programming, and transmissions”. I had not heard of the PEG funds and therefore I submitted an open records request asking how much of the money had already been spent by the city in this line item.
According to the open records request I received from the city, the city has spent a total of $4,562.14 this year on items that seem to allow for the broadcasting of city council meetings. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much money was budgeted and trying to find it in the city’s budget was taking too much time so I gave up. I was also too lazy to submit another open records request asking for information on the PEG funds, including how much money is budgeted and what restrictions it has on its use. For now, we know the city contemplated spending about $7,000 to set up another workstation at dais and that it has already spent almost $5,000 this year.
The rest of the open records requests I submitted were looking for emails or documents exchanged between the various city council representatives and the mayor in regards to the seating fiasco. Except for one innocuous email acknowledging a meeting request between Oscar Leeser, Cortney Niland and some citizens there appears that there was not any written discussions between Niland, Ann Morgan Lilly, Lily Limon or the mayor in regards to the seating issue. Based on what I received from my open records requests I can only assume that the discussions about Cortney Niland returning to her seat on the dais was held verbally between some of the individuals involved. I cannot file an open records request for verbal discussions and therefore it is unlikely the community will ever know exactly what was said and to whom and when it was said in regards to the musical chairs affair.