Greater Park Hill News - Peg's Plans for City Transparency
(3/4/19) Cara DeGette, editor of the Greater Park Hill News, posed several questions about the Denver Clerk’s office and how I plan to improve transparency and accountability of city government if elected. My answers were published as a feature story in honor of annual Sunshine Week in March:
NAME: PEG PERL
Current Occupation: Public Interest Attorney & DU Adjunct Professor
Greater Park Hill News: Why are you the best candidate for the job of Denver Clerk and Recorder?
Peg Perl: I’ve dedicated my legal career to making government more open and accountable to all, not just the wealthy and well-connected. For 15 years my focus has been on the core areas of the Denver Clerk’s responsibilities: voting rights, campaign finance, public records access, and government ethics. With my past positions in the Federal Election Commission and U.S. House Ethics Committee, I have experience in administering these programs in a government agency. I also successfully passed reforms and enforced campaign finance, ethics and public records access on behalf of Coloradans as Senior Counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch.
GPHN: You have said that you want to make the office more accountable and transparent. Identify specifically what records you believe should be more accessible to the public.
Perl: First, I will post a full inventory or directory of all public records available from the Clerk’s office, because there are a number of city records that are not advertised as available. For example, those receiving a no-bid city contract, lease or concession agreement must file a certificate listing past campaign contributions with the Clerk. Similarly, Business Improvement District annual filings and all city contracts are filed in the office. I want these documents to be identified, searchable, and available online as well as partner with the public libraries for offline access to much of the Clerk’s information.
GPHN: Identify 2-3 specific areas of the Denver Clerk & Recorder’s current website that you would improve.
Perl:Overall the Clerk’s website needs to be more mobile-friendly to make information accessible for those whose only internet access is through a cell phone. Also, I will create an online FAQ available in many other languages than Spanish for each division of the office (elections, marriage, foreclosures, etc.). Finally, I will modernize the campaign finance disclosure system so that it is easy for candidates to file, and information is easy for residents to find.
GPHN: Identify 3-4 government websites (in Colorado or elsewhere) that you view as providing exceptional access to public records, and whose tools you would like to replicate for the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office. (Feel free to explain what you find exceptional about them.)
1. OpenColorado’s site provides great access to documents that are data-driven to allow comparisons and analysis of that information. http://data.opencolorado.org/dataset
2. San Diego has a searchable database site for city records, like city council minutes, ordinances, and reports. I would like to implement something like this across city council records, contracts, BID filings, and similar documents. https://www.sandiego.gov/city-clerk/officialdocs
3. Pittsburgh provides campaign finance, city contracts, lobbyist and other disclosures in a searchable form together. I especially like the “elected official” page where each city official is listed with direct links to disclosures. I would use this in Denver to include links to elected officials’ campaign finance, financial disclosure, lobbyist and gift reports. http://www.openbookpittsburgh.com/
GPHN: Describe specifically what improvements you would pursue to improve voter turnout in Denver:
Perl: In general, I will work to expand automatic voter registration and updating of addresses when voters access city services so that ballots can be easily received. I also will increase community involvement in determining drop-box and voter service locations and hours to better meet the needs of all voters. I will continue to collaborate with community groups for targeted programs to welcome more voting by immigrants, youth, those experiencing homelessness, and voters with disabilities. Finally, we must address the almost 40 percent turnout gap between even-numbered elections and municipal elections by looking at possible timing changes and increasing our voter information outreach year-round.
GPHN: Do you support public financing for political campaigns? Explain.
Perl: Yes. I was a leader on the policy team that developed the Fair Elections Fund policy that later became part of Measure 2E in Denver. I believe that public matching of small donor contributions diversifies the pool of candidates and increases voter engagement and involvement in elections. People who participate as small donors are more likely to get involved in Denver’s municipal elections when they feel not only that their vote will be counted, but that their voice matters and will be heard.
Read the full article, including more background on Sunshine Week here.