The MTA’s Lack of Transparency Over a Worsening Budget Deficit

nat_ford.jpgMTA Chief Nat Ford should come clean about the budget deficit.
Listed under the MTA Board's agenda, on the agency's antiquated website, is a link titled "Know Your Rights Under the Sunshine Ordinance." "Government's duty is to serve the public," it says, "reaching its decision in full view of the public." It's an ironic juxtaposition given the MTA's recent lack of transparency about a worsening mid-year budget gap that could reach well over $45 million. Never mind next year's looming deficit.

A few weeks ago, we brought you news that the MTA had yanked an update on the budget from the board's agenda at the last minute. Staff prepared a PowerPoint outlining the crisis but the MTA refused to hand it over to Streetsblog, arguing it was in draft form and therefore not releasable under the Sunshine Ordinance. So we retained a respected San Francisco media attorney to try and obtain the document on our behalf.

In her letter to MTA spokesperson Judson True, attorney Erica Craven-Green argued "that even if in draft from under section 67.24(a) of the Sunshine Ordinance, draft documents are not exempt from disclosure and must be produced."

The MTA did produce the document [PDF] but it redacted the information in question, leaving eight pages blank. In an email, True claimed the Sunshine Ordinance "actually provides that portions of a draft document containing recommendations of the author may be withheld from disclosure. Since portions of the responsive draft document you have requested contain recommendations of SFMTA staff, the SFMTA is redacting any such recommendations from the document that we are providing you."