City Government

City “Varnishes” Mayor Hotline Public Record

Mayor Dave Bieter’s “Team Dave” has decided to provide their own version of Hotline Calls made to the Mayor’s office after providing a word-for-word transcription to the media for years.

We find it ironic the city spends $60,000 in public funds to “educate” voters about a political question on the November ballot, but eliminated a weekly transcription of citizen views called into the Mayor as a cost saving move. They claimed the city needed to provide “unvarnished” data on the issue of a constitutional amendment aimed at denying voter approval of debt at airports statewide.

The unvarnished Hotline versions provided information, entertainment, and topics of public discussion for GUARDIAN readers. Credibility certainly comes into question. We don’t know if a caller said, “I heard…” or REALLY said, “I heard a rumor.” For instance the call featured this week in the summary posted earlier quotes Don Nelson as “wondering” how the city can legally take something without returning a service. Did he say that–which may well be true–or did he conclude, “this is simply wrong and illegal!?”

Some of our past favorites:

We sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office seeking the actual audio of calls in lieu of the transcript after a City Councilor assured us he was informed it would be made available. Well it is–sort of. You decide.

Here is the unvarnished text of the letter without GUARDIAN summaries:

Dear Mr. Frazier:
I received your request for audio recordings of the hotline calls as well as the written summary of those calls received by the Mayor’s Office. As you know, this office has been providing courtesy copies of the transcribed calls to you for some time without requiring you to formally request them each week, as contemplated by Idaho’s Public Records law.

A full transcription of each call is no longer being created; the written summary is the only document available.

Your request for “audio recording in a digital on-line format” of these calls cannot be accommodated. The voice mail system the City uses is not integrated with our computer network. The messages can be heard only by listening on a City Hall telephone. As you are undoubtedly aware, Idaho’s Public Records law provides that you “have a right to examine and take a copy of any public record …” (Idaho Code 9-338). You are free to listen to and record, using your own recording device, any calls not otherwise exempt from disclosure pursuant to one of the many exemptions in the public records law.

Please contact me if you would like to schedule a date and time to come to City Hall to listen to hotline calls.

Michael Zuzel
Office of the Mayor, City of Boise

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. A digital audio recording can easily be made in mp3 format with most mp3 players at the time the call is reviewed. It’s not real hard just push the record button, then plug the player into a USB port and wallah you have a digital recording. Cost, under 20 bucks up front and little more to convert to digital and probably a lot less than archiving the analog version as required under public records laws.

    As far as “Some of our past favorites” it would be great if you had some HTML links to them.

  2. As usual, zuzel throws another shovel full of dung in the public’s face! It is one helluva way to run a railroad!

  3. I will be calling the Mayor’s Hotline, to protest the sanitization of the Mayor’s Hotline calls! (That won’t create some kind of unexpected “feedback loop” that will result in organic life ceasing to exist… will it?)

    I would encourage fellow Guardian readers to do the same! This is bogus!

  4. Dave, might I suggest you start your own hotline for regional issues and the powers that be can then get a copy from you.

    EDITOR NOTE–Great Idea! We do a lot of “hotline” work already fielding messages via e-mail from readers who are stonewalled by the city. For the most part city department heads–with some exceptions–do a great job and respond well to citizen complaints filtered through the GUARDIAN.

  5. The city does not like being exposed for its many screw ups so they are fixing the problem…the way to deal with petty local bureaucrats is to confront them, embarrass them and vote them out of office. When the public laughs at them, the job is done.

  6. untamedshrew
    Jul 29, 2010, 9:21 am

    Let me get this straight. The City wrote you a letter saying you are free to come and listen to and record the calls yourself. However, you argue here that the city should continue to transcribe those calls for you, at taxpayer’s expense, for the benefit of your readers? For “entertainment and topics of public discussion?”

    EDITOR NOTE– Not for me. For all the city councilors, media, and citizens who seek the “unvarnished” version. The transcription process came long before the advent of the GUARDIAN. As an insider, you certainly know the intent of offering the audio version–with “numerous exemptions”– is INTENDED to make it difficult. We would no longer be able to redact phone numbers and addresses as we do in consideration of callers.

    As a writer, you could surely transcribe those calls yourself and provide them here, for the benefit of your readers. How ironic (and hypocritical?) that you think the City should do this for you.

    EDITOR NOTE–Transcription came along way prior to the GUARDIAN. You know the GUARDIAN is one of many who receive the report, including councilors, department heads, and all the rest of the media. Perhaps some of that $60,000 for the PR firm could go toward transparency.

  7. So Much For Open Government Mr Mayor
    Jul 29, 2010, 9:42 am

    So Much For Open Government Mr Mayor!

    Another promise BROKEN!

    No surprise – business as usual Mr. Mayor. Very very sad.

  8. untamedshrew
    Jul 29, 2010, 6:34 pm

    I see. Despite the fact that your first post referred only to Guardian readers who read these transcripts for amusement, you actually don’t want the transcripts for Guardian purposes primarily, but are asking on behalf of the entire media, Boise citizens and, surprisingly, city councilors. How good of you to speak on their behalf.

    Upon what basis can you claim that the city’s intention here is to make access more difficult? I assume this is simply your varnished assumption rather than a statement of fact. This new process saves us money as taxpayers. The audio recordings are accessible if one so chooses to access and transcribe the calls on his or her own. How does this process lack transparency? The information is available, just in a different, more cost effective format. Indeed, access to a recording of the caller’s voice is probably as unvarnished as it gets, and probably gives a lot more nuance than is available in a written format. Moreover, the exceptions you refer to applied to the transcripts as well as the recordings, as I’m sure you are aware.

    You and your readers complain incessantly about wasteful city spending, except, apparently, when continued unnecessary city spending suits your purposes. It is precisely this type of double standard that calls into question the credibility of this blog. Since you varnish every single decision coming out of City Hall with unsupported impure motives, how can any intelligent reader give credence to a single word you write?

    I’m no insider, just another interested concerned citizen who prefers unvarnished, unbiased reporting rather than knee-jerk, often self-serving reactions such as those frequently posted here.

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