Students Submit Signatures for Open Government Ballot Initiative

A group of San Francisco high school and college students today submitted more than 16,000 signatures to qualify an open government initiative developed by San Francisco State University students for the November ballot.

Intended to expand public participation in local government and increase the diversity of those attending and speaking at meetings, the measure would require the city to stream all public meetings online live, allow virtual public testimony at meetings and allow the public to petition for agenda items to be held at a specific time.

The measure was developed in an online American government class at San Francisco State University in the spring, according to David Lee, the instructor who taught the course.

Students researched steps taken in other cities to increase public participation and developed a proposal to combine the best ideas into one local ballot measure.

Fawwaz Fikkeri, who participated in the class and helped research the measure, said he had attended some city government meetings and seen very few other young people.

“We want more youth to be involved,” Fikkeri said. “Hopefully this initiative will help.”

Students from Lowell, Washington and Galileo high schools are now planning to work on the campaign and get the word out to the public this summer and fall, Lee said.

Lee said that while the city currently broadcasts and offers online streaming video of some meetings on SFGovTV, that system can only handle one or two meetings at a time and does not cover every board and commission.

Estimates from firms that handle livestreaming indicate the city could show the majority of its meetings for a cost of $70,000 to $100,000, with no additional infrastructure or staffing needed, Lee said.

Lee, who is executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, said that group is sponsoring the measure. He is also president of the public advocacy group San Franciscans for Open Government, which is campaigning for it.

Sara Gaiser, Bay City News

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