Civic Activist, Transparency Advocate Mel Shapiro Dies at 90

The San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was saddened to learn about the passing of 90-year-old civic activist Mel Shapiro.

Shapiro was a source of accurate and reliable information for a generation of journalists in San Diego County, many of whom relied on his tips to develop watchdog stories.

A former New York accountant, Mel Shapiro moved to San Diego and advocated for better transparency by all agencies across the county. He was basically a professional seeker of public records and held officials accountable for not releasing critical information. His Twitter bio boasted that he had won two published appeals in his fights for government transparency.

In 1987, Shapiro’s efforts to uncover wasteful spending within the San Diego Housing Commission garnered national attention when he was featured in The Wall Street Journal. The evidence Shapiro uncovered eventually led to the firing of Housing Commissioner Ben Montijo.

Over  the years, Shapiro regularly worked behind the scenes and never sought out public attention or acclaim for his muckraking. But in 2012, he accepted SPJ’s Sunshine Award and in a city proclamation, was described as a “civic activist and watchdog possessed of much passion and purpose.”

San Diego is a better place because of Shapiro’s service. Rest in peace, Mel.

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