Open Government within ASUCD
For years, the ASUCD Senate (and other ASUCD bodies) have operated exclusively from the third floor of the MU and have done little to inform the public of their plans and actions (aside from during campaigns). This page is dedicated to a discussion of how ASUCD can open up and keep the students better informed.
The ASUCD Website now features sections (in the "Government Documents" area) with pending legislation, legislation gone through commissions (meaning it was revised), new legislation, and agendas. This is a great step forward for keeping students informed. In early May descriptions of the materials were added (before that it simply listed the bill #s) and the documents were moved to a PDF format (it was Microsoft Word format before).
However, SGAO seems to be doing a poor job filling in the bill descriptions of new bills as well as keeping the site updated. For the week of Oct. 14, 2005 there appears to be no content on the government documents section of the site — not even old material that was there before.
The ASUCD Budget is also not online, and it's unclear as to whether members of the general public can even acquire copies of this. The proposed budget for 2005, handed out to the ASUCD Senate by the ASUCD President on May 19th, is not to be found anywhere online. The budget hearings are the weekend of the 20th, so it's unlikely that any form of public scrutiny will be reasonably possible. No senator even mentioned the idea of writing a bill to put the budget online, despite the fact Rob Roy and Kristen Birdsall campaigned on the platform of Open Government (and, in particular, noted they would put the budget online). Why does this matter? Because the budget is what decides where all of ASUCD's some-odd 9 million dollars goes.
The ASUCD Elections Committee will now have a recorder present during their deliberations (in regards to disqualifications). The minutes taken will be treated like minutes for a closed session — meaning members of the public cannot read them. The argument made during the Senate meeting was they did not want to politicize the Elections Committee. The committee can only act unanimously in its decisions to assess "violation points," so a public summary of their decisions is enough, they argued. Jonathon Leathers (chair of the ASUCD Elections Committee) wrote a letter to the editor in The Aggie in regards to this, encouraging the Senate to open the minutes to the public.
The ASUCD Website, up until April of 2005, often featured out-of-date legislation (with current legislation and information being months out of date) and did little to keep students informed about what's going on in ASUCD Senate meetings. The ASUCD Senate passed a bill that would put all pending legislation, passed legislation, revised legislation, minutes and agendas on the ASUCD Website.
Discussion related to lack of open government
February 10,2005 - Complaints about ASUCD Senate
So tonight the Senate passed an urgent bill to give the Campus Safety Commission $600 for 3000 door hangers to give out to people to inform them how to throw a party. The door hanger is a good idea but the door hanger was not in its final form when the Senate was asked to pay for it. The Senate debated for about three hours on the matter. It was revealed the door hangers would cost a lot more than originally stated because the Campus Safety Commission fudged some numbers. Some people suggested that the door hangers be paid for by Tandem properties or have Woodstock's Pizza ad on the bottom that could be torn off - in order to cut the costs of the students. Although there was interest in these ideas due to failures of communication the bill was not tabled. Tabling the bill would have allowed for a week of rethinking of the money structure. Maybe saving the students money. But the people that designed the door hanger did not want an ad. I guess they thought it would tacky. They claimed after the initial run of 3000 door hangers then they would get sponsors. The ASUCD Senate is acting like a bank. Just as they did last week in fronting $33,000 for TVs and expecting money later they did the same thing today - even after the Aggie wrote an editorial chastising them on their faulty spending. The difference between advertising in the Co Ho and on a door hanger is that the students will be continually annoyed at the Coho but on a door hanger they'll just be getting a cheaper pizza. I guess the Senate, despite all the talk of looking out for students, just doesn't really want to make it cheaper for the students. Actions speak louder than words. But Keith Shively, Thomas Lloyd, Adam Gerber, and Jessica Engel were senators that were looking out for the students because they wanted to actively try to cut the costs of spending and the voted No.
Also, since the bill was urgent the public was not notified so that they could give their opinion on the party guide door hanger. And since the original art was a cartoon keg, looking very much geared toward the frat house life style which only 10 percent of the campus belongs to; the entire public should have been notified. - Rob Roy
Good Point Rob, however only like 6.3% of the campus is in the greek system. I was on B&F when this bill came through, and it was allready known to have problems with numbers in it (trust me, I spent a good hour trying to decifer the cryptically writting numbers). We were also unaware that the bill was marked urgent, this was probably done after we at B&F viewed it. In the end we decided to pass it under the assumption that the numbers would be figured out prior to the Senate meeting. The issue is a lot of times we see legistlation and those individuals who are knowledgable on the subject or bill in question so we are told by the writter at the meeting that they'll get it done before Thursday meetings. I guess in this situation that failed to occur. Politics on this campus are neither simple nor neat we are trying to do the best with what we got. - Mark Klebanov
February 3,2005 - Complaints about ASUCD Senate
I am really pissed off that I didn't know a bill about putting plasma screen TVs in the CoHo was introduced to the Senate this evening. Had I known I would have written to Senators and went to the meeting. The fact that the average student has no ability to find out what bills are going to be introduced to the Senate is completely terrible. It wasn't online. It wasn't in The California Aggie (they ocassionally cover bills being introduced, but they didn't today). I think this is all part of a much larger problem of a lack of commitment to open government within ASUCD, which in turn fosters the disconnect between ASUCD's legislative/executive and the rest of ASUCD: The students. —PhilipNeustrom
In regard to Paul's bill about documents being online, if you happen to remember I was the one that filed the complaint against ASUCD for not caring this out. Once the complaint was filed it did not take them long to put the documents online. The bill, however, does need to be expanded and I am currently working on a bill to make this happen. However, I guarantee that as soon as this goes before a Commission or Senate the first thing that will be said is "I agree but Alex Park says he can't do it." Nonetheless, I intend to get this introduced at the next Senate meeting. - Jonathon Leathers
If you need any help, I am willing to help co-author your new bill. Also, do you or anyone know if it is possible to amend bills that have already passed a long time ago? Cuz depending on how you wanted to word it, it might be easier to amend what I already started 2 years ago. Also, try to make sure nothing in your new bill is mutually exclusive of what I wrote in the "passed" version, otherwise we will be in a bigger rut than the one we are in now. -Paul
It seems that there is a general agreement on the wastefulness of ASUCD and their lack of transparency. A few others and I started the covert "turn off the tv campaign" in the MU. I urge all who feel violated to join us in this simple but meaningful gesture of protest. —ErnBro
The senate does not seem to have its priorities straight. Had the students known that the bill was to spend $33,000 on two large plasma screen TVs that will be placed in high traffic areas in the CoHo at the request of AGTV (which currently produces one episode every two weeks) there might have been a better student turn out at the meeting to convince the senators otherwise. Secondly, the CoHo director, Sharon, was there to give a unit report on the CoHo and was completely suprised by the bill herself. It turns out that neither AGTV nor the other co-authors of the bill had formerly talked to her about placing the large TVs in the the CoHo. She acknowledged that it had been mentioned to her in passing but was never formerly brought to her attention, she was never given the opportunity to speak with her over 200 student employees or her over 40 student managers. I believe that she was rightly concerned about the effect it would have on people taking up places at the tables and making the already noisy coffee house noisier. These all seem like legitimate concerns that she was never given the opportunity to mull over. This, however, did not seem to concern any of the senators with the exception of Keith Shively and Jessica Engel. The argument for the televisions is that, regardless of the fact that AGTV hardly has enough equipment to get by making one program every two weeks (a point briefly brought up by senator AdamGerber, the televisions would pay for themselves in three to four years IF they receive over $10,000 in commerical revenue each year. There will be no where in the CoHo that you can go without being inundated with advertising. With one episode every two weeks the same episode would run maybe five times a day and the rest of the time the television would be broadcasting advertisements. They did, however, say that a lot of the advertising would be free SPAC and other campus related advertising. The most glaring concern seems to be their lack of organization and collaboration with the CoHo and the fact that they are expecting to generate $10,000 in outside advertising revenue. I think that had this bill been made public before it came before the Senate there could have been a better constituency representation to fight it. Regardless of the information brought against the bill, it passed 10-1-1, with Keith Shively as the sole dissenter (Donald Cohen-Cutler was not there). —KristenBirdsall
I'm outraged that this passed! -JackHaskel
I am in shock. It will take a good deal of effort to persuade me that this is not some sort of horrible wiki trick. I'm completely opposed to the annoying piece of shit eyesore already in the MU entryway, but two more? Pay for themselves in three or four years? They do know plasma TVs get shittier over time right? I wish I could have gone to the senate meeting just so I could have sat there with my mouth gaping open at the sheer mayhem. - TravisGrathwell
Guys, just so everyone knows, I wrote the original legislation to put documents online, but recent developments, and slate issue developments, I now realize that my legislation, which passed in Spring 2003, was not complete enough, since it didnt specifically address things such as the budget and unpassed legislation. Also, it seems they have been slacking on getting new stuff online for a couple of months now. So, the foundation is already there to solve this problem of open government, but someone needs to get a copy of my original legislation for reference from the SGAO, and write a new bill addressing the stuff I did not address almost 2 years ago. - Paul Amnuaypayoat
I would like to applaud Keith Shively for his actions today. He was on top of his game being very concerned about wasting the student's money. And AGTV has not proven itself to be worth while. They need to expand to more online broadcasts. KDVS has thousands of online listeners. AGTV can have thousands of online viewers if they provide quality progaming. But I think someone in the alternative culture that is most likely to complain needs to get involved with AGTV so they have at least one cool show. We can complain about $33,000 being spent without our knowledge. But we can't complain about AGTV having bad programming unless we do something about it. -RobRoy
I know that none of this really matters to any of you, but I figure that as long as were talking about openness in government, i might as well take this oppertunity to be honest. I'm proud of Keith Shively too, not just for standing up for his constituents but also for being brave enough to be the sole dissenter on this bill. My choice to vote in favor of the bill was a result of my desire to see AGTV become a mainly self-sufficient unit, like the The California Aggie or Unitrans. I was very shocked to hear that the AGTV people did not collaborate with the Coffee House administration regarding the placement of the TVs. Because of my disappointment, I moved to amend the bill striking out the plans for placement in the CoHo, leaving it up to the CoHo and the AGTV staff to decide together at a later point. I also brought up a point that just one of the $6,000 TVs could pay for as many as 20 digital cameras (or other production equipment). Senator Bang informed me that a bill for more equipment is in the works and we can expect it soon. While this did not ease my concern about the wastefulness of the TVs, it did reassure me that AGTV is committed to expansion and that we can expect a development of programming. So, to answer Rob Roy's call for better programming, that opportunity should be on the way soon. I want AGTV to become a major media outlet on campus. Investments like these in the past have given us the The California Aggie and KDVS today. My vote for this bill is as much a vote of confidence to AGTV as it is an endorsement of the purchase. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. As far as openness in government goes, we need more of it. Until we get some kind of permanent and accessible source of information for all students to use, feel free to find me and talk with me while I am still in office. To talk about future bills or whatever, IM me at AdamIsMissing. Adam Gerber
My opinion of AGTV and this expansion aside, I was most upset that students couldn't find out this bill was going to be discussed (hense the page name). I'll try and stop by SGAO soon and talk to them about how all this works. —PhilipNeustrom
So far as AGTV goes, I'm not sure that they are expanding in the right direction. I would like to see them expand to the internet before they started buying really expensive TVs. And I would like to see them have to discuss things with the Coffee House before Senate bought the TVs. What if they don't want them? Do we now spend $33,000 for nothing? The Senate can table a bill once in a while. I don't really want to slow the process even more, but an omission like that will probably cause yet another turf war at next week's meeting. No one seems to talk to anyone else — please work on fixing that.
The issue of an open government is really important to me. I guess if we all had time to go to all the commission meetings, we would be well informed. But none of us do, and most ASUCD documents aren't available online in a timely fashion. It took a long time for any Senate Bills from this quarter to make it online. I'm pretty sure this is not Creative Media's fault — it's SGAO's fault. A lot of people have been complaining to me, someone outside of the association, about how nothing ever gets done completely by the SGAO. They miss edits in bills between versions, they don't make enough copies, and they have refused to do work for some branches of ASUCD. They do not have an admin plan because they are not technically a unit, but I think that they should. And Senators should be really looking into what is happening in that office. I don't know what the problem is — maybe they need extra staff, but someone should be investigating. — BrentLaabs
Simple solution: file a court complaint to overturn the legislation on the grounds that ASUCD violated its Codes which require public notification on the web. After the case succeeds, I suggest advocating legislation that a bill cannot be heard before the Senate unless it has been online for at least 2 or 3 days or so. Students have been through this before. For instance, see the Davis College Green Party's page on open government in ASUCD. BTW, here's a screenshot of the ASUCD Gov. Docs. web page from today:
I'm looking at PaulAmnuaypayoat's legislation right now and it does not specify that the proposed bills be online before they go to the senate...so I don't really know where to begin. Secondly, SGAO isn't open on Friday's therefore I can't walk up and get a copy of the bill because it's not online! They are still lacking in updating the website but it looks like they've posted all of the minutes from January 6-27th.—KristenBirdsall
Paul's legislation reads(this isn't the exact copy that was passed...he said the dates are different and there are more people that can put documents on the web in the final version):
Authored by: Paul Amnuaypayoat Introduced by: Caleb Hervey
Referred to: Internal Affairs Commission
A bill to provide electronic copies of the ASUCD constitution, student(supreme) court rulings, senate legislation, ASUCD election codes and ballot measures available at the ASUCD web site.
BACKGROUND: Student involvement in the government of ASUCD can be facilitated when the students have easy access to government documents. Currently, any student can get access to these documents via the SGAO, but the operation hours are limited. Additionally, a significant amount of older documents are not stored within the SGAO, and therefore any request for a particular document might involve the staff member on duty to leave the office to go to the archives. Having all of these documents available online will not only facilitate distribution, but can potentially save SGAO money from being used to produce hard copies of government documents. Additionally, electronic versions of these government documents should already exist on SGAO accessible computers, and therefore transferring them to the ASUCD web site should be easily accomplished. As of the writing of this bill, there are no plans for making these documents available online.
Section 1. The following items will be made available for anyone to download from the ASUCD web site: All legislation voted on or after March 31, 2003 in the senate, all ballot measures voted on or after March 31, 2003 in a general or special election, the ASUCD constitution, ASUCD election codes, all student (supreme) court case rulings, and any other government related document that the president or vice president wants to make available.
Section 2. All of these documents shall be made available online by Media Link on or before October 10, 2003. The decision about how to implement this plan shall be made by the director of Media Link, or by any other person with the appropriate technical knowledge who is approved by the president or vice president.
Section 3. Upon the completion of sections 1 and 2, Media Link shall thoroughly evaluate the contents of the ASUCD web site and update obsolete information as needed. This process shall also be completed on or before October 10, 2003.
Due to the public outcry it is clear that a piece of legislation needs to be introduced that would make it mandatory for legislation to be online at least three days before voting. That would be easy. As on now, legislation is introduced seven days before the voting occurs. So when a bill is introduced on a Thursday it should be available online on Monday and then the voting will happen the following Thursday. That would be easy enough to legislate and facilitate. - Rob Roy