To Text or Not to Text

While the idea sounded good in principle, City Council members are finding that it’s not as easy as it seems to put all the text messages that they receive about city business on the municipal record. The city is currently considering a policy that would make all personal electronic communications about official matters public. Ideally, the policy would include all personal emails, text messages, and even Facebook postings. But as Councilman Pete Constant learned, there is no way for him to transfer text messages from his personal iPhone to the municipal email system.

Mayor Chuck Reed cautioned that the city may be forced to require council members and planning commissioners to use their city’s official email accounts exclusively to conduct city business. The policy would also ban text messaging and emailing during meetings, in an effort to prevent lobbyists from influencing decisions.

Constant, however, is firmly opposed. Recalling how, during one City Council meeting his wife texted him to say that she was stranded on the highway with his kids in the car, he says that text messaging has become “a way of life” for people such as him.
Read More at The Mercury News.

13 Comments

    • James, why don’t you blog your announcement to move out of the valley, that would make a lot a people happy!

    • No offense, James, but why do you care so much about the San Jose City Council when you are from Santa Clara? Is there a lack of activity in your city?

  1. You know this whole thing is so stupid. This is like criminals finding newer and better ways to get around the letter of the law. So are we taxpayers going to have to pay a fortune in getting officials to comply with the Brown Act because of new technology? The Mayor is right, use your email, and make documents exchanged available. Stop finding more ways to get out of complying with the law. God, no wonder everyone thinks government stinks and isn’t trust worthy. Geech!

  2. This is why no one take you posters seriously. Obviously not one of you saw or heard the council subcommittee discussion on this.

    Constant said he supports full disclosure of text and all electronic communications – in fact he is the only person on the council who provided the Mercury News with all of his detailed text message record, including date, time and phone number for each text sent and received.

    The discussion hear makes it look like he wants to hide something – not so.

    But you folks stoop to child-like tactics like making fun of his weight. Yes, he’s over weight – and he admits it. But he also faces serious injuries that have complicated his health. But go ahead and keep posting such childish stuff and people will keep disregarding your posts as simply the rants of discontented fringe.

    Remember, this all came about because the labor unions text marching orders to their puppets on the council, not because Constant’s wife had to text him due to a family emergency.

    I would hope that if your family member was stranded on the side of the rode with very young children they would have the ability to text a family member so they could come help.

    It sounds like to me that Constant is a responsible husband and parent first – is that such a bad thing?

    • There is clearly a mechanism by which a member of the council can be reached in an emergency without having to watch their cell phone the entire meeting.  How about having a phone number that can be called so a member can be alerted if there is family need. 

      Or even more simply, check to see if a message is from your family.  If it is not, PUT DOWN THE PHONE during the meeting.  There should be no argument, like the one Constant made, that texting during meetings is necessary.

      If an emergency text comes, step off the dais and out of the room and reply.  Otherwise, keep your thumbs still.

    • Name calling isn’t necessary. I like Pete and I understand family emergencies. Texting, and commenting on Face Book during a Council meeting is unprofessional, and quite frankly rude to those of us who take the time to come to Council, and wait for hours to speak for 1 or 2 minutes.

      Having said that, I personally would like to see Sam Liccardo’s text messages to the Bryan Do and the others involved in the Little Saigon negotiation revealed to the public. I wonder if he would provide them if asked, or would he say they’ve been deleted? See, that is the problem with text messaging, there is ALWAYS room for Brown Act violations and for making excuses about providing vital information to the public. By keeping communication limited to certain venues, you keep things honest and simple.

  3. “But as Councilman Pete Constant learned, there is no way for him to transfer text messages from his personal iPhone to the municipal email system.”

    That is false, it is a very simple task to cut and paste text messages from an iPhone and then email them to a city account.

  4. Public business and private collaboration.  California, one of the original states to sign on to the progressive movement that tried to “reinvent government” with more public access, has the Brown Act and other reforms on the books.  Basically it seems like common sense that public business should be conducted in public, with fair notice of when and where meetings are being held, and an opportunity for people to comment.

    The reality is that of course the civic leaders, both elected and unelected make sure they comply with the letter of the law as much as possible, but still conduct business informally, with chats, meetings, messages and other social networking that allows them to arrive at decisions with the help of donors, staffers, allies and others.  Sometimes lining up a majority of votes is to critical a task to leave to the chance of an opening meeting, and if one observes, it seems rare that an elected walks into a meeting without their votes already decided upon (which makes the public input kind of phony, since its orchestrated to either support the pre-determined vote, or tolerated until the members vote as they intended to all along.)

    So people have noted this behavior for years as development and developer dollars basically drove city business decisions (land use) and the current mayor rightfully played into the disgust by suggesting that public disclosure (sunshine) would be good for the process.

    If council members need to interact with staff, family, friends and lobby people, that seems tacky on the one hand, and down right shady on the other.  It doesn’t change the culture of collusion to simply selectively disclose text messages, but its a start.  The level of civic engagement is weak, the amount of journalistic “watchdog” review is weak, and the tendency for voters to punish council members for pandoring to moneyed interests is low, so basically we have the government we deserve.