Jacksonville residents will be glad to know that there is at least one person in City Hall who is on their side.
Council Member Anna Lopez Brosche doggedly is pursuing a measure she authored seeking to pry open the lid of secrecy that has descended on City Hall over the past few decades.
It is a job the media should be doing, but isn’t.
Last year, when she was council president, Brosche named a Task Force on Open Government and it reported serious breaches of the spirit of the “government in the sunshine” laws in Florida, and perhaps the law itself.
Since then, she has been fashioning a law to lower some of the barriers.
An example of how things work these days:
We called Will Williams, chief of the city’s solid waste division, to get information for a simple story about the current state of the city’s recycling operation.
We were advised that ALL requests for information had to go through the city’s public information division. (This was one of the criticisms of the task force).
Fifty years ago, reporters, and the public, roamed freely through City Hall – without going through scanners. They could talk to council members, the mayor, department heads and any other employees.
Bit by bit, that freedom was shut down.
Virtually all elected officials and bureaucrats are sealed off from the public – doing God knows what.
Records still are available, sort of. We asked the public school district for some simple information last May. In August, we were advised that if we wanted it we would have to pay for the public records.
We ponied up the money in August – and are still waiting for the information.
When you have to wait six months to get information, you are not reporting the “news.”
How much of a dent Brosche can make in the City Hall problem is unclear. But at least she is trying.
The real question is, why isn’t the mayor helping? He could virtually eliminate the problem by issuing a couple of directives.
Two of his top aides, Sam Mousa and Brian Hughes, are secretive by nature. But are they in charge or is Lenny Curry?