Ballot measure would stream City meetings

A ballot measure introduced Thursday morning would require all public meetings held in San Francisco be streamed live online and opened up for virtual public comment by mid-2016.

The measure was created in an American politics class at San Francisco State University, according to David Lee, the SFSU professor who is teaching the 200-student course.

Lee, who is also president of the public advocacy group San Franciscans for Open Government, assembled this morning with State Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma and other supporters at the San Francisco Department of Elections office in City Hall, to submit the ballot measure proposal, the Sunshine and Open Government Act.

Lee said the measure not only requires that all public meetings be live-streamed online and allow for virtual public testimony, but also allows agenda items of significant public interest to be heard at a set time, allowing more citizens to participate and comment at meetings.

Ma, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and State Assembly, said that in such a technologically savvy city such as San Francisco the measure is the logical next step to connect voters to their government.

Ma explained Thursday that the proposed ballot measure would increase transparency and bring people closer to their government:

“I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.”

By live-streaming all public meetings and allowing people to comment publicly from a remote location, Ma said she hopes more people will express their opinions and help form policy decisions that impact them. She said many people are not able to attend public meetings in the middle of the day, but would certainly like to ask questions and make comments.

Ma said she supports the measure on a local level as well as a state level. Lee said the measure allows specific times to be set at meetings for topics of great public interest when 50 or more people sign up to hear the item.

Ma said the measure would also be beneficial to journalists, reporters and other members of the media who currently have to wait around, sometimes late into the night, to cover agenda items of great public interest that are buried behind items that garner almost no public interest. Lee said the proposed ballot measure is the first of its kind in a major U.S. city.

The ballot measure requires 10,000 signatures, which Lee said he is confident will be collected by the July 8, 2015 deadline in time to get it on the November ballot. He said the very students who thought up the measure will be taking to the streets to gather signatures from the public.