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From the Publisher Clif Smith

This week saw the first installment of what happens when you elect a majority of City councilmembers committed to opening our City government to the people. The new majority revised the City’s email retention policy so individual staff members no longer can delete emails just because they don’t think they warrant retention.  All emails will now be retained for two years, not just 30 days as in many cases.

This should have been a “no brainer” but it was not. A similar move by new Mayor John Mirisch in October was defeated 2-3 by the previous council.

The Courier congratulates the new council reform majority of Mayor John Mirisch, Vice Mayor Lili Bosse and returning councilmember Nancy Krasne for a common-sense change in City policy. We remain disappointed that former mayor Willie Brien and councilmember Julian Gold continue to put concerns over “staff privacy” ahead of the people’s right to know.  The vote was 3-2.

Question: Why should any City employee believe that an official City-owned email is their personal e-communication device? That was really the only issue. Does not every staff member have a personal, private email for purely personal business? Cell phones that can text?  One would assume so.

The new council reform majority was clear: If you use City property, what you do belongs to the City–meaning the people.  Simple, succinct, clear.

This conflict is not unique to Beverly Hills.  California’s newspapers are in a constant battle with City and county governments for open access.

The non-profit California First Amendment Coalition presses local governments and goes to court to vindicate the people’s right to know. California’s “freedom of information act,” the California Public Records Act, and our open-meeting statute, the Brown Act, put into law the people’s right to know.  Bureaucrats and many elected officials at all levels fight these two laws, try to limit them, and often seek to avoid them. That’s what the previous council did – but the new council just elected by the people fixed that.  Again, congratulations.

We look forward to more changes to bring true open City government to Beverly Hills. More hopefully, we would truly welcome a change of heart of City staffers from City Manager Jeff Kolin to all levels to recognize that the people will be heard and that the people – not the bureaucrats–are in charge.

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