OKC mayoral candidates sign Open Government Pledge

Two candidates have pledged to comply with the letter and spirit of the state’s open government laws if elected mayor of Oklahoma City.

In signing FOI Oklahoma’s Open Government Pledge for local candidates, Sen. David Holt and University of Oklahoma junior Taylor Neighbors also promised “to support at every opportunity” the state’s public policy that “the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

Since FOI Oklahoma began the pledge in 2008, 185 candidates have signed — with 94, or 51 percent—being elected at least once.

The Oklahoma City mayoral primary is Tuesday. A runoff will be April 3 if one of the three candidates doesn’t garner more than 50 percent of the votes.

Longtime Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett is not seeking re-election. Instead, the Republican is running for governor.

Oklahoma City mayor is a nonpartisan office. The mayor serves as one of nine City Council members and presides at council meetings.

Republican Holt was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 and serves mostly northwest Oklahoma City, Warr Acres and The Village.

He received FOI Oklahoma’s 2014 Sunshine Award for his support of the state’s Open Meeting and Open Records statutes by filing and supporting legislation friendly to those laws. The same year, one of Holt’s bills allowed successful plaintiffs in Open Meeting Act lawsuits to receive attorney fees.

Another of Holt’s bills that year removed the Open Records Act exemption for Oklahoma Highway Patrol recordings and added audio and video recordings from dashboard and lapel cameras to the list of records that all law enforcement agencies must make available for inspection and copying.

Under one of his bills passed last year, public bodies don’t have to post paper copies of meeting agendas if they post the agendas on their websites and provide them free via email.

Holt also has pushed legislation to make the Oklahoma Legislature subject to the same open government laws applicable to the state’s other public bodies.

Neighbors, 21, is a piano student at OU and running as a registered independent. In a campaign Facebook video, Neighbors called for Oklahoma City to be “an open data city.”

“That would mean there would be no guessing, no information requests,” she said. “Every thing you could find about the government … we could find online. Once you have that data, private people can use it to create apps that make our daily lives easier.”

Oklahoma City’s open data portal provides online access to a number of maps and datasets.

The third candidate, Democrat Randal Smith, did not reply to an email asking him to sign the Open Government Pledge.

FOI Oklahoma invites all candidates for state, local and legislative seats to sign the pledge. Instructions and lists of signers can be found on FOI Oklahoma’s website.

FOI Oklahoma began the Open Government Pledge as part of a national effort to spur public commitments to government transparency from candidates for president down to city council contests.

 

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications
Mass Communication Law in Oklahoma

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, its board of directors or the commentator’s employer. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.

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