PUBLIC INFORMATION -- Open Government
advocate Allen Grossman may dismiss his lawsuit against the San Francisco Ethics
Commission and its Executive Director, John St. Croix, if they provide him
with all withheld public records about the Commission's dismissal of 14 complaints referred from the city's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- The board of directors of Californians Aware elected new officers and added three directors at its meeting Saturday in San Diego. As in its first six years, the leadership of the organization is shared equally by professionals in government service, civic life, law and journalism.
FREE SPEECH -- It's claimed in some quarters that the students who recently orchestrated a serial shout-down of a speech at U.C. Irvine by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. were exercising their First Amendment right to protest. The California Supreme Court has held that there can be in effect a constitutional right to heckle, but not where it intentionally brings a meeting to a standstill and violates standing rules or customs, known by the audience, for gatherings of the type in question.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- A Los Angeles Superior Court judge is charging, in a newspaper's guest column, that the state's highest judicial rulemaking body breached its own rules by secretly adopting major changes in how the judicial branch's governance is done.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Last fall Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would have required state agencies to post most of their contracts for services on an Internet website in a searchable database. AB
756 was sought by a government worker bargaining unit, the Service
Employees International Union local for Sacramento, and also the
Professional Engineers in California Government, who argued that the
state was wasting money by outsourcing computer maintenance and
consulting contracts. Now David Cameron, head of the UK's Conservative Party and candidate for Prime Minister, is reportedly vowing that if elected he will next year begin "publishing" details of all government contracts worth more than £25,000—to help pinpoint waste.
OPEN MEETINGS -- It turns out that a majority of the California Assembly, and a near majority of the Senate, did attend a closed-door luncheon hosted by Governor Schwarzenegger on January 6, after the State of the State speech, as reported by Steve Wiegand in the Sacramento, Modesto and FresnoBees. The Assembly leadership was expressly warned by the Legislative Counsel that the gathering could not be closed to the public if public business was to be discussed, but the Governor's invitation was promising the airing of some exciting new ideas for state government.You can check this partial list of those who showed up—and ask your representative why he or she went, if that's the case, and what was said by whom.
OPEN MEETINGS -- Some mayors and other presiding officers in local government might well love to have a trapdoor under tiresome speakers at public meetings, but until that technology gets legal blessing, the solution currently being tested in the City of Carson is what broadcasters call the Kill Switch. As Jeff Gottlieb reports in the Los Angeles Times, "Carson's mayor has a tool that almost any politician would love to
have: a mute button. If someone talks too much at a City Council
meeting, with a flick of the finger, the microphone goes dead."
FREE SPEECH -- Of course "lies and lying liars" are protected by the First Amendment—unless they're used to obtain a benefit of economic value or in violation of a sworn oath, or in reports to law enforcement authorities, for example. As noted by a Los Angeles Timeseditorial, the defenders of the Stolen Valor Act don't seem to get that.
OPEN MEETINGS -- Californians Aware and its founding president, Richard McKee, have filed suit against a labor-management committee of the Los Angeles Community College District established to maintain the quality and control the costs of the district's employee health benefits program.
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- Would it surprise you to learn that there is a bronze, silver and gold standard for transparency policies and practices in local government generally, and in particular for how agencies use the Internet to make public access to information as easy as possible? Would it surprise you to know that the standards have been developed by a national professional association of bureaucrats?
FREE PRESS -- The Alameda County District Attorney has agreed with Attorney General Jerry Brown's staff that the secret taping by Brown's press spokesman of phone interviews by a reporter was not unlawful, given that the results were going to be on the record in any case.
PUBLIC INFORMATION -- A Sacramento Superior Court Judge is not persuaded that accused sex slave kidnapper Phillip Garrido has a privacy right to keep the public from learning how parole agents supervised him while he allegedly kept a young victim captive in a backyard shed for years.
FREE SPEECH -- Stanley Fish's profession is English, not law, and like Anthony Lewis's journalism, the writer's gift makes him the best kind of expositor of what the courts have said and done. In the New York Times Fish has now presented the clearest explanation of the two colliding First Amendment views seen in the majority opinion and dissent in the much-commented corporate free speech case of recent days. Fish notes that the "principled" view says speech must be free, no matter the prospects for its corruptive effect, no matter whose speech it is, while the "consequentialist" view says curbs may be necessary to reduce the threat of corruption, given the nature and power of the speaker.
OPEN MEETINGS -- The Yuba Community College District Board has reversed its grant of a $29,000 raise to its chancellor, unlawfully approved in a recent closed session, after a demand for correction by Richard McKee, founding president of Californians Aware, speaking for himself and CalAware. As reported by Erin Tracy in the Woodland Daily Democrat,
OPEN GOVERNMENT -- About 70 public officials and citizen watchdogs from the Yucca Valley area gathered last week for an all-day training session on the local agency open meeting law and the California Public Records Act, presented by Californians Aware.