Closed-door government lacks key ingredient: us

Filed under: SUNSHINE LAWS — tkm April 30, 2008 @ 21:0 pm

Inside the First Amendment

By Gene Policinski
First Amendment Center vice president/executive director
03.23.08

Government at all levels always leans toward conducting business behind closed doors. The reasons range from the ease of working out compromises to avoiding hurt feelings and political repercussions to making the process work faster.

The only problems — apart from its occasionally being illegal to conduct public business in private — are that it’s also undemocratic and unfair to the citizenry.

Each year at this time, the nation’s attention is called to “Sunshine Week” — a time when scholars, First Amendment activists, regular citizens and news media of all sizes focus attention on open-records laws and open-government practices. This year, that call to transparency comes with a nagging worry about attempts to close down public debate and public records — ironically by officials citing values of democracy and fairness.

I’ve little doubt that the nation’s founders preferred a knowledgeable, informed and engaged public. They had plenty of firsthand experience with the alternatives — Star Chambers and Privy Councils that secretly conducted trials, advised royalty and set policy out of public view. (See HBO’s current mini-series, “John Adams.”)

What leads government officials high and low, then and now, to desire to operate behind closed doors and in private chats, out of sight and out of oversight? The answer is simple: Democracy is a messy, conflicting, argumentative, occasionally inefficient, and certainly challenging form of government. But civility, expediency and ease of operation are gravy, not goals, for our system of government.

Still, across the country, local government units like city councils and school boards have attempted to tidy up the process — but in the process, shutting down comment, disclosure and involvement. In recent years, for example:

A West Virginia school board tried to prevent critics from mentioning district employees by name or job title when speaking at a board meeting. In Oklahoma, it took a federal court ruling to overturn a similar law.

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the right of local residents to videotape government meetings over official objections.

Mississippi officials ordered a local public-broadcasting cameraman out of a contentious water-association meeting.

The Los Angeles City Council adopted “rules of decorum” that, along with banning profanity, limit public speakers to one minute and require that comments be directed at the entire council, not just one official.

There can seem a certain reasonableness to limiting public debate to avoid filibusters; to restricting personal comments to avoid flaring tempers; to requiring speakers to register in advance for scheduling ease. But all too often the effect, intended or not, is to preclude serious counter-arguments, to blunt frank criticism of elected or appointed officials, or to discourage public discourse.

When public records are involved — particularly those in the courts and criminal justice system — we must remember they aren’t open merely to satisfy the curious.

In repressive regimes, access to government information is among the first limitations imposed. It may be more than uncomfortable to have arrest records and “mug shots” available for public disclosure — but the alternative is a system where you or I may simply “disappear” into a draconian, closed system, leaving relatives and colleagues uncertain and afraid.

Not each and every government record or conversation ought to be aired on C-Span or published in print or online. Certain kinds of personnel matters — where unproven charges may be investigated, for example — might well be examined initially in private so that making a claim is not akin to inflicting damage before the accused can respond. And for public officials whose lives really would be endangered by those they arrest or convict – no argument there.

But the vast majority of what our government does is not a national or personal security matter. What it does on our behalf needs to be, and to remain, public – even if it stings, even if it means long nights listening to one side or another, or casting votes at risk of one’s reelection chances to try to keep public records true to their name.

Gene Policinski is vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, 555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Web: firstamendmentcenter.org. E-mail: gpolicinski@fac.org.

Autism – Thanks for your Support

Filed under: AUTISM,Uncategorized — tkm April 20, 2008 @ 22:0 pm







Autism Cruise-In

Filed under: AUTISM,Uncategorized — tkm April 9, 2008 @ 10:0 am

4-19-08 Spartan Stadium
12:00pm to 5:00pm

CLICK: REGISTRATION & SPONSOR FORM

DEMOCRACY or DESPOTISM?

Filed under: CBC,Uncategorized — tkm April 5, 2008 @ 3:0 am

In my opinion Chief Horner’s real heartburn with the internet sites is the truth can be told and seen first hand. Let’s watch a video of what is really meant by Threats and Intimidation, see link below:

CLICK: 3-10-08 This video is a wav file of the Chief of Police Charles Horner making threats and intimidating internet site owners and any citizen who disagrees with him or his plans.


The picture above depicts the true meaning of threats and intimidation towards silencing the people.

Democracy at its worst!

Why use a gun to steal money when all you have to do in Portsmouth, Ohio, is get elected to a political office? Whether as a council member, mayor, chief of police or city solicitor the sport of thievery seems to flourish in Portsmouth.

One technique elected officials use to successfully rip off citizens of Portsmouth is by stripping away the citizen’s vote by pretending it doesn’t exist. This basic democratic right is repetitively stolen by our politicians in order to ensure their own agenda and to increase their own political power.

When politicians are not held accountable, they stop listening to the people. They become an elite club who vote themselves perquisites. Our taxes are used for their personal gain instead of what is best for the community. A sizeable group of concerned citizens of Portsmouth are trying to change this. They are trying to hold politicians accountable and to generate enough public discussions in an effort to stimulate debate and coerce proper actions by our politicians.

On March 24, 2008, 4 out of 6 City Council members voted to move forward actually, move backwards with plans to renovate the Marting building. This act deprived the citizens of Portsmouth their fundamental right of vote. Voting rights in May 2006 the citizens of Portsmouth voted on a referendum that stopped all renovations on the Marting building by almost a 3 to 1 ratio. This referendum stated that no further actions would be taken on the Marting building without a vote by the voters of Portsmouth.

At this same meeting many citizens addressed council regarding this injustice that was being inflicted on the voters and the taxpayers of Portsmouth. Prior to this meeting the Chief of Police setup a video camera and positioned it facing the audience and the public speaking podium. This action was a deliberate tactic to intimide the public. Instead of using the camera to televise council proceedings as has been requested many times in the past, it was used to discourage citizens from speaking out.

It would behoove every citizen to be well informed and demand security in the vital process we call voting. The groundwork of democracy depends upon the right of every citizen to vote and be counted. Voting should be valued as the lifeblood of Portsmouth by the citizens and by elected officials.

Citizens must protect their rights; it is up to us to learn who threatens democracy and act to reverse detrimental trends.

Who do I feel are the major offenders behind the act of taking away your vote and your fundamental rights?

Jim Kalb, Mayor (Advisory Building Committee)
Mike Jones, City Solicitor (Advisory Building Committee)
Howard Baughman, President and 5th Ward Council
David Malone, Vice President and 2nd Ward Council
Mike Mearan, 1st Ward Council (Advisory Building Committee)
Gerald Albrecht, 4th Ward Council
Charles Horner, Chief of Police – The Intimidator
Trent Williams, Auditor (Advisory Building Committee)

Also, the Advisory Building Committee is gathering in meetings not open to the public and they are providing no information to the public.