Muffle Scuffle

*Moved up, 'cause the conversation's fun!

Irvine's reigning feet-to-the-fire holder Stephen C. Smith has a very interesting post on his site. Here is an excerpt from “Sukhee Kang Knows Your Birth Date”:

Councilman and mayoral candidate Sukhee Kang used a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request in August 2006 to obtain an estimated 90,000 records with personal information about Irvine voters, including birth dates, home addresses and e-mail addresses.

The Irvine Tattler was sent a copy of Kang's CPRA request by an Irvine resident who reportedly obtained the document from the Orange County Registrar of Voters. The Irvine Tattler contacted the Registrar of Voters office in Santa Ana to confirm the document is real.

According to a Registrar spokesperson, Kang obtained about 90,000 records. The document shows he asked for a “CD ROM of the City of Irvine” and stated his intended use was “For my City Council race.” It shows he requested on disc a copy of “City of Irvine with voting history.” The Registrar spokesperson said that Kang would have received the names, home addresses, birth dates, e-mail addresses, and voting history for each registered Irvine voter at the time. The spokesperson said that the Registrar only “recently” began collecting e-mail addresses, so how many Kang received with e-mail addresses is unknown.

To fully appreciate this hypocrisy, go back to the May 27 Irvine City Council meeting, where City Councilman Larry Agran hammered Councilwoman Christina Shea for having used email addresses the city has collected to send out an electronic newsletter to residents.

On the face it would seem like no big whoop, mailers are sent from elected officials to constituents this way all the time. But this particular elected official, Shea, is one of the council's two dissenters who are often critical of the council's ruling majority (Kang, Agran and Mayor Beth Krom). Shea and Councilman Steven Choi have raised questions about potential cronyism and back-room decisions, especially as it concerns the Great Park, which is the biggest public works project going in the city, if not the county, right now. Agran chairs the Orange County Great Park Corp.

Now, the Great Park Corp. and Agran's political machine have had no problem over the years using similar city information to get their messages out to the public. But with the potential that this information could now be used for snail and electronic mailings critical of Team Agran, he has found religion – and censorship.

Agran launched his crusade upon discovering that Shea emailed her informational newsletter to 500 Irvine residents after, as directed by city staff, she made a California Public Records Act request for the email addresses, which had already been collected and distributed to the Great Park Corp. and the Great Park Conservancy. Like any good Christian evangelist, environmental doomsayer or Republican presidential candidate, Agran whipped out the fear card.

“If you're a child, and you signed up for a class, next thing you know you'll be getting information about swimming or fine arts or whatever it is from a commercial vendor,” he said at a recent council meeting. “The information also can find its way to pornographers! This is just part of the world that we live in.”

Led by Larry, the council approved for the Nov. 4 ballot a measure that would tighten the city's control over personal information sent to City Hall, allowing officials to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to disclose information given to the city for a 'limited specific purpose' and which the city has promised to keep confidential.”

Such a law raises serious concerns about freedom of information, the public's right to know and the California Public Records Act. Indeed, our libertarian pals on the Orange County Register editorial board believe the measure will likely conflict with state law, editorializing that “the Larry Agran-controlled council majority seems eager to use this proposal as a test case that would give government officials statewide more control over public information.”


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