A trainee of San Jose City Clerk Toni Taber went on a bit of a redaction spree last week as the understaffed office prepped for the upcoming City Council session.
Hours before the Sept. 24 meeting, Fly noticed that portions of the letters from the public were inexplicably censored—including city email addresses, names of businesses and organizations and logos. Yes, even logos.
On letters addressed to the council, the brand insignia of SV@Home, San Jose Downtown Association and Silicon Valley Organization, to name just a few examples, were entirely obscured by thick black marks.
One of the more outlandish cover-ups came on a letter from StarCity, the San Francisco-based “dorms for adults” builder, which expressed its support for a tax break that would make it easier to get shovels in the ground for an upcoming project.
The unnamed city clerk apprentice haphazardly blacked out what appeared to be both the name and address of the StarCity project. Ironically, both were listed for all the world to see in a memo on the same agenda from Economic Development Director Kim Walesh and Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand.
Fly knew enough to decipher most of the obscured details, but reached out to Taber to find out why anyone felt the need to keep such obviously innocuous and obviously public information a secret. “I have a new person,” Taber replied in an email, “and she redacted a little more than we usually do. I’ve talked with her about it.”
David Snyder, the executive director for free speech non-profit First Amendment Coalition, was unamused. “I don’t know of any basis for withholding the name of an organization that has submitted a letter to a public entity,” he remarked when asked about the odd redactions. “That’s important for the public to understand where objections are coming from or where support was coming from.”
Since Fly flagged the issue, the clerk’s office has relaxed its grip on the digital Sharpie.