For One Day Only, State Gummint at City Hall

Greetings, Friends! I'm the only person wearing jeans in the Dallas City Council Chamber today for the Texas Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations meeting starring state Sen. Royce West and an ensemble cast of local government officials talking about the effect and implementation of state legislation passed during the last session. Stage Gummint: Ain't just fer Austin anymore!

I'll liveblog in the comments -- why not? -- but here's what's happened so far:

The first speaker was Comptroller Susan Combs, who brought us our first awesome take-me-out-of-context-please quote of the day: "You have to go horizontally to see what you're spending," in reference to, the comptroller's online resource meant to make government spending and revenue documentation accessible.

Combs spent several minutes baking a creamy, fluffy, self-congratulatory cake with regard to increased government transparency, getting specifically excited about a "self-nominating" awards process wherein school districts and governments can be all, "Hey, look at all this stuff we put online! Give us a gold star!" And then Combs gave out a bunch of gold stars because people asked for them.

Sadly, state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., was in no way interested in swallowing even a little piece of Comb's pie. Gallegos said he'd requested documentation as to the actual spending of government funds (as opposed to the budgeting or allocation thereof), and was way, way less than pleased with the (lack of) response from, "Let's just say the largest school district in the state." Gallegos proceeded to engage in what is known in the vernacular as "a severe ass-chewing" in the specific direction of Combs, as he would like actual spending practices of his district to be available, not just budget information: "I just put a billion dollars in bond funds, I'd like to see how that's spent, online."

Then West laid down a smooth layer of local government vocal icing over Gallegos's roughly chopped pecan topping, asking about future legislation with regard to transparency. Then Gallegos piped up with a final thought for Combs on the subject of those transparency awards: "Surely you didn't give out an award to my school district?"

West: "Which one is that?"

Gallegos: "I have the largest school district in the state."

Gallegos, hereafter referred to as Senator Transparenator, then wanted to know what happens if false information is provided to the comptroller, to which West responded: "In all probability they could be prosecuted for falsification of government documents."

Which was not a satisfactory response for the Transparenator, who wanted to hear it from Combs's mouth: Specifically, what's she gonna do 'bout it when these agencies start lying? To which Combs said, and I paraphrase, "Figure out WTF happened, GAWD."

Victor Gonzalez, Chief Technology Officer for the Comptroller's Office, spoke next, and for his first question, state Sen. Robert Nichols referred to the internet as "the webs." Guess what! He's old.

Johnathan Frels, Deputy Attorney General, was up next, and before he could get a word of his presentation out, Senator Transparenator had a question about open records requests: Specifically, if the Transparenator files a request first, and if someone else files a request later, shouldn't the Transparenator's request be responded to first, because, SURPRISE! The Transparenator filed a request this one time and it was not responded to in a timely fashion, and THE TRANSPARENATOR WANTS ANSWERS: "Explain to me why my request was delayed out of your office, in lieu of the Houston Chronicle. I filed mine first."

West tried to calm down the Transparenator with soothing words like, "You sound like me when I'm in court." But the Transparenator will not be soothed. The Transparenator wants answers! "He knows he hasn't answered my question. He has big problems." But the Transparenator conceded that the meeting must proceed, and so he allowed Frehls to continue with his presentation on public information and open records.

Johnathan Frehls is so hot he had to keep the "h" in his name, but that doesn't mean his voice isn't sweetly lulling this reporter into an insufficiently caffeinated slumber. Will someone bring me a cup of coffee? I'm sitting five rows up in the council chamber, stage right. Lotsa cream, three sugars.

Oooh, and now a subject of great import to Kids These Days, from West, who wants to know about the impact of social networking and smartphones on the public information act according to the AG's office: "There were issues with legislators Tweeting, and on the Facebooks ... what is the law as relates to me receiving something from the director of a committee, if she sends it to my personal cellphone?"

To which Frehls responds: "If you are making communications in your capacity as a public official, they are subject to the public information act."

So feel free to get on the Facebooks and the Tweets, guys, and poke away at West, because I think that means he has 10 days to send you a response in writing.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes