Last week San Francisco’s Mayor Ed Lee announced the launch of a new publicly available database, the Online Database of Board and Commission Appointments, which aggregates information on San Francisco city board and commission appointments and vacancies. San Francisco is trying to carve an open government path and this database, the first of its kind nationally, is another small step forward.

Increasing Transparency in City Government

While a site like this is still a long away from full transparency in San Francisco’s appointments, it does centralize information that used to take some digging to find.

In years past, many commission appointments have gone to political supporters, donors and other’s who were squarely part of the “City Family.” While the centralization of information on appointments won’t guarantee better commissioners, this online data may potentially increase the pool of available talent for appointments, allowing qualified residents, who may not have otherwise known of the available positions, to throw their hats in the ring.

Notable Problems with the Database

While the goals for the site are admirable, there are a handful of kinks. Several pages for different boards and commissions lack contact information, and many more lack the explicit information on qualifications and processes for appointment of members. The pages for both the Long Term Care Coordinating Council and the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare are entirely devoid of any helpful information for appointments.

Hopefully sooner – rather than later – these pages will be completed so the site can fully serve its purpose. But again, good job SF for creating a first-of-its-kind tool for increasing transparency in city government.

Join the live webcast on Thursday, June 9 at 2pm with Phil Ting, Jay Nath – Director of Innovation at City Hall, and Gina Tomlinson – the City’s Chief Technology Officer. RSVP today and ask your questions in advance.