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Friday, February 29, 2008

County Might Change Its Ways on Open Meetings

This story from the (Aberdeen) Daily World tells why Grays Harbor County might start providing meeting notices and agendas for their "staff meetings" with commissioners. They are considering this because Tim Ford, the Attorney General's Open Government Ombudsman, suggested in a letter that the county's current practice might violate the Open Public Meetings Act.

Mother Jones on Deleted White House Emails

This story from Mother Jones describes the White House's "missing" emails.

P.S. Og-blog has no ideological blinders. We post stories ranging from Mother Jones to the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tri-City Herald Editorial Connects the Taping Dots

This editorial from the Tri-City Herald describes a recent State Auditor's Office finding that Benton City held a bunch of illegal executive sessions. Then the editorial describes how the taping bill would have gone a long way toward preventing this:

"Tape recorders are cheap enough even for the smallest cities, and forcing government officials to think twice about whether their closed-door comments violate the law is the bill's aim, not a detriment.

"Such feeble arguments only highlight the obvious -- opponents of the bill don't want officials held accountable if comments made during an executive session violate the Open Public Meetings Act.

"And they won. The bad guys won. In Olympia.

"The bill is dead, as is the spirit of open meetings and accountability in too many of Washington's local governments."

Just Don't Write a Report and Then Meet One-on-One

This (Vancouver) Columbian editorial describes why Clark County commissioners are wrong to prohibit their consultant, who was paid over $9,000 to investigate misconduct of county employees, from writing up the report because it would then be subject to disclosure.

To top it off, the consultant is meeting one-on-one with the commissioners to avoid the Open Public Meetings Act. Writes the Columbian:

"Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris, a reliable source of valuable advice, told a Columbian reporter last Friday: 'I’d much prefer that you called the board (of county commissioners) secretive and imprudent in spending public funds than I would to have you expose our employees.'

"We’ll follow her advice."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tacoma School Board Decides to Follow Open Meetings Law

This story from the Tacoma News-Tribune has the best headline in recent memory: "Florida Trip Halted Due to Sunshine." You should read why that headline is so apt.

Public Records Show ... UW Under Investigation for Monkey Cruelty

This KOMO 4 story describes how the University of Washington is under investigation for unauthorized surgery and experiments on monkeys. How do we know this?

"Through public disclosure requests we obtained thousands of pages of internal e-mails and reports from the UW and federal agencies. Some of the surgeries were approved, many more were not. We found evidence that some monkeys underwent a dozen or more surgeries, as the eye coils and head chambers were removed and replaced, again and again."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Death of Taping Bill

This Spokesman-Review editorial places the blame (or credit?) for killing the taping bill squarely where it belongs: local governments' army of lobbyists. Says the Spokesman-Review:

"A bill in Olympia that would have required government officials to record closed-door meetings has succumbed to behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of the very people who would have been held accountable.

"The culprits are nameless. The full legislative body did not have to go on the record with a vote.

"While the forces of secrecy – that would be just about every governmental body in the state – can congratulate themselves on a clean kill with few fingerprints, voters might want to ask them what was so objectionable in the first place."

Olympian Editorial on State-Spending Searchable Database

Here is another editorial, this time from The Olympian, on Senate Bill 6818 which would create a searchable database on state spending. Says The Olympian:

"A bill to bring more transparency to state government spending has passed the Senate unanimously. The House should follow suit and Gov. Chris Gregoire should sign Senate Bill 6818 into law."

Monday, February 25, 2008

(Aberdeen) Daily World on Antiquated "Paper-Only" Public Records Policy

The (Aberdeen) Daily World editorializes about Grays Harbor County's policy that seems to make it very difficult to get electronic records, even though most records are now electronic. Says the Daily World:

"The bottom line will always be that the information, no matter what form it’s in, belongs to the taxpayers, not the bureaucrats. To borrow an eloquent phrase from the preamble to the Open Public Meetings Act, 'The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.'"

Yakima Herald-Republic: We Will Look for Pro-Taping Bill Candidates

This Yakima Herald-Republic editorial says what needs to be said: When a popular common-sense proposal like the taping bill is defeated, there will be political consequences. Voters are entitled to know if a candidate supports taping meetings or instead buys the local government lobby's doomsday scenarios. Here is a bit of the editorial (emphasis added):

"Open government advocates around the state have been defeated in this session of the Legislature. So we will be looking for legislative candidates with enough backbone to demand passage next year of an important open government bill: legislation requiring audio recording of local government meetings closed to the public. ...

"Local government lobbyists, using a series of lame, irrelevant arguments in aggressively working to defeat House Bill 3292, won the battle when the measure failed to pass the state House by a Tuesday deadline. So we're going to be among those pushing to keep them from winning the war by working hard for passage of this common-sense legislation by the 2009 Legislature.

"Those to whom openness in government is more than a campaign slogan will be interested in learning from local government and legislative candidates this year just where they stand on this issue (and others) concerning the public's right to know. Count us in as part of that statewide effort."

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Eclectic Mix of Indivduals" Shapes Open-Gov't Debate

This posting from Jonathan Bechtle of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation discusses the "eclectic mix of individuals" who make up the Washington Coalition for Open Government, a group having a real impact on open government here.

Columbia Basin Herald Editorial on Death of Taping Bill

The Columbia Basin Herald writes this editorial. It lays out the reason for passing the bill from A to Z.

Supreme Court Case on Public Records Penalties

This story from the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber (yes, og-blog scours every nook and cranny so you don't have to) describes the saga of Armen Yousoufian. His case is setting the law on how penalties are calculated in Public Records Act enforcement cases.

Open Courts Victory

One of the important open-government protections is access to court proceedings. Open courts laws are often overshadowed by the Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act but are still important. People need to know how their courts are functioning to make sure bad things aren't happening when no one is looking.

Defense attorneys in a murder trial wanted to prevent the media from photographing the defendant and demanded a bunch of other restrictions on reporting. They lost, as described in this Seattle Times story.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Seattle Times Editorial Unloads on Death of Taping Bill

The Seattle Times calls it like it is on the death of the taping bill. Noting that a vote on the bill would have shown who opposes the bill, the Times writes:

"If ever there were a bill that should have been brought to a public vote, it was this one. The backroom trash-talkers would not be able to run for cover. If they dared vote against the bill, they would have had to stand by their vote and take the heat from open-government advocates.

"The agents for the cities, counties, school boards — and probably even mosquito districts — wanted to make sure local elected officials had a cover in the event they strayed beyond appropriate discussion during closed-door meetings.

"Cynical? Why else would they oppose a simple measure that would have required elected officials to make recordings of their closed executive sessions?"

P.S. Mosquito control districts actually exist.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

! Taping Bill DEAD !

Well, the army of local government lobbyists (paid for with your taxes) talked enough legislators into killing the taping bill. Visions of reel-to-reel tapes coming to life and chasing local politicians around meeting rooms must have been too terrifying.

The Penninsula Daily News broke the story of the bill's demise. Then the Associated Press picked it up.

This settles the question of whether local governments have something to hide in executive sessions. They have so much to hide that they resorted to hysterical arguments against a bill requiring a $100 digital recorder.

It should be interesting this fall when all the local politicians and legislators who opposed the taping bill are up for re-election and come to their local newspapers grovelling for an endorsement. We suspect that answering a question from the editorial board about the taping bill with the tried-and-true line "of course I support open government, but ..." just won't cut it this year.

State-Spending Searchable Database--Passes Senate

This policy idea by the Washington Policy Center passed the state Senate unanimously. Now it's on to the House.

UPDATE: This story in The Olympian provides additional details on the bill and its passage. Here, also, is a blurb on it from the State Sunshine and Open Records blog.

Your Party Pick Is Public

Here is a story in the Tri-City Herald about the fact that a person's choice of partisan ballots in today's primary is a public record.

Here is an earlier og-blog post on the same topic.

Olympian Editorial on Taping Bill

This editorial in The Olympian uses local examples to illustrate why the Legislature should pass the taping bill.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

(Longview) Daily News Editorial on Taping Bill (No. 2)

The (Longview) Daily News puts the local perspective on the taping bill debate in this editorial.

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Taping Bill

The Tri-City Herald writes this editorial. They confront opponents of the taping bill with this little piece of logic:

"We have a question for elected officials in the Mid-Columbia: What are you afraid of? ...

"If you're all telling the truth about your strict compliance with the Open Public Meetings Act -- which is undoubtedly the case in the vast majority of executive sessions -- then a verbatim account of closed meetings would prove your innocence."

Bellingham Herald Article on Taping Bill

Sam Taylor of the Bellingham Herald writes this. He describes how a mayor who campaigned in 2007 in part on an open-government platform now opposes the taping bill. My, how quickly they "grow" in office.

Callaghan Column on Taping Bill

Peter Callaghan, Tacoma News-Tribune columnist, explains the pros and cons (mostly pros) of the taping bill. Says Callaghan:

"But under current law, residents who suspect a violation are required to prove the nearly unprovable – that something they didn’t see and can’t find out about was illegal.

"Unless someone admits to a violation, challengers are left to build a circumstantial case. For example, if they don’t see a public discussion before the governing body votes, they have to assume either that no discussion took place – legal but unseemly – or that the discussion was held in executive session – illegal and unseemly."

Skagit Valley Herald Editorial on Taping Executive Sessions

Add the Skagit Valley Herald to the chorus of newspapers urging the passage of the taping bill. Says the Herald:

"Recording for executive sessions is done in several other states with no ill effect. It can only serve to make elected officials more alert against abuse of closed door sessions for purposes other than those allowed by law. We hope that our own local officials will instruct their state associations to cease their lobbying against this valuable protection of the public interest."

Kitsap Sun Editorial on Taping Bill

The Kitsap Sun joins just about every other daily paper in the state by calling for the passage of the taping bill. Says the Sun:

"In the interests of maintaining accountability of our elected officials, we strongly endorse this bill, and urge our legislators to support its passage."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

House Passes Open Meetings Penalty Increase Bill

Good news, as reported in the blog of Joe Turner (Tacoma News-Tribune).

Most of the "no" votes were eastern Washington Republicans.

TNT Editorial on Taping Bill

Another great editorial on the taping bill, this time from the Tacoma News-Tribune. Addressing the standard objections to the bill raised by some cities and counties, the TNT writes:

"Last we checked, garden-variety tape recorders were almost as cheap as dirt.

"Then there’s the truly intriguing objection that the recordings would have a 'chilling effect' on these private discussions. A chilling effect when – assuming they are legal – only a judge will hear them?

"What that really sounds like is fear of oversight. For the first time, elected officials would have to face a reliable threat of disclosure – not of their candor but of their evasions of the state’s open meetings laws."

Yep. Exactly.

Public Records Show ... Seattle Paid Law Firm $6.3 Million

This story from the P-I describes how the City of Seattle has paid one law firm $6.3 million since 2002 to defend police officers accused of misconduct. The city has never put the contract out for competitive bidding.

This information came from public records.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

P-I Editorial on Taping Bill

They just keep coming. Here is the P-I's editorial in favor of the taping bill.

Thurston County Treasurer Opposes Making Public Records Requests Easier

Not many citizens know the details of county organizational charts. "Oh, the Public Works Director reports to the Finance Division, not Planning and Land Use. Of course. I should have known that."

A citizen who wants public records from a county should only need to go one place: the county, not each department of the county. The Legislature thought so too, passing a law in 2005 requiring every "agency"--and that inclues a county--to have one public records officer who is the public's "point of contact" for making records requests.

Thurston County Treasurer Robin Hunt doesn't like that. The Olympian reports that Hunt thinks a citizen should be required to request records from each separately elected county officer. (But wouldn't that increase the number of public records requests that counties always claim are strangling local government?) Hunt is mad at the State Auditor for suggesting that counties comply with the 2005 law.

City of Seattle Support for Taping Bill

Mike Fancher's blog describes the Seattle City Council's support for the taping bill.

The Seattle Times editorializes on this, asking other councils why they don't join Seattle. (P.S.: Notice the html address of the editorial, which includes "seaopened"--as in miracle, which was our reaction to the City of Seattle announcing its support for the taping bill.)

This bill must be a good idea if it enjoys support from a diverse coalition like the City of Seattle, Pierce County, the Attorney General and State Auditor (both of different political parties), just about every newspaper in the state, and the House Majority Leader and the House Minority Leader (also of different parties).

Arguments against the taping bill? It would require too many reel-to-reel tapes. And it would "chill" council members' speech--that is, speech that by law must occur in public not private.

State-Spending Searchable Database--Still Alive

Looks like the bill to create a searchable database to see how state money is being spent passed out of committee and is still alive. Thanks to the Washington Policy Center for this fabulous public policy proposal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

(Longview) Daily News Editorial For Soter-Fix Bill

The (Longview) Daily News writes this editorial urging the legislature to pass the Soter-fix bill. It say, in part:

"The Supreme Court went along with school officials, saying the "legal controversy" exemption applied because litigation was likely at the time the investigation took place.

"What kind of reasoning is this? One of the dissenting judges warned that the ruling 'essentially creates a public nondisclosure act, turning the act inside out so that documents are withheld from the public unless the public can demonstrate that no remotely connected litigation exists, past, present or future.'

"If authorities had previously chipped away at the Open Records Act, this ruling blasts a tunnel through the heart of it. It will just encourage government agencies to ask lawyers to prepare documents and attend meetings so they can claim attorney-client privilege.

"That's happening already, says Toby Nixon, a former legislator and president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. And it's an ominous trend, he warns: 'Keeping all communication between agencies and their attorneys secret is a recipe for bad and unaccountable decision-making and for potential corruption.'"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Confessions of an Anonymous School Board Member on Taping Bill

David Seago, editorial writer for the Tacoma News-Tribune, has this on his blog. Pretty eye opening.

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Open Meetings Penalty and Taping Bill

This Tri-City Herald editorial neatly describes the interplay between the bill to increase the penalty for violating the Open Public Meetings Act and the bill to require the taping of executive sessions. Says the Herald:

"Right now, the fine for officials who knowingly violate the state's open meetings law is $100.
That's a small price for stomping on the people's sovereignty. Forgetting to renew your license tabs can cost you more.

"Not that there's much concern anyone will have to pay the $100. Without a record, it's difficult to prove an official broke the law. And when agency lawyers advise that a secret meeting is OK, it's almost impossible to prove anyone knowingly violated the act."

(Vancouver) Columbian Editorial on Taping Bill

The editorials on the taping bill keep coming and coming. Here is the (Vancouver) Columbian's. It says:

"The only reason any public official could oppose this bill would be fear of doing something wrong, and if that happens, wouldn't it be best if a judge and then the public found out about it?

"HB 3292 is brilliantly crafted. It provides as much protection for proper behavior as it provides scrutiny of improper behavior. Legislators should stop listening to the cowering whiners and pass the bill. The public has the right to know about violations of executive session rules. 'Wouldn't capable public servants want the tape recorder there?'"

Public Records Show ... Mayor Might Have Lied Under Oath

The Detroit Free Press reports that racy text messages exchanged between the Mayor of Detroit and one of his staff members contradict the Mayor's earlier testimony under oath denying the relationship. The text messages were obtained--you guessed it--under Michigan's public records act. And--you guessed it--the city fought for years to prevent disclosure.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Business Community Support for Taping Bill

In his blog Olympia Business Watch, Richard Davis of the Association of Washington Business writes this in support of the taping bill.

! Taping Bill Lives !

Good news. The taping bill made it out of committee Thursday night during the special reconsideration hearing. Here is the story from The Olympian and the (Vancouver) Columbian.

The bill has a few more manageable hurdles in the House but then it would go to the Senate. The Senate Majority Leader, Lisa Brown, is signaling that she is not inclined to give it a vote in the Senate.

Now is the time to start preparing your Senators to vote for the taping bill. You can contact them by clicking here and then send them an email urging them to support HB 3292 when it comes over to the Senate.

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Taping Bill

Add the Yakima Herald-Republic to the long list of editorials in favor of the taping bill.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

! Taping Bill May Not Be Dead !

Magically, the legislative committee that killed the taping bill will hold a very rare session tonight to reconsider it. Here is a blog posting from the TNT's Kim Bradford, which says in part:

"I spoke to state Rep. Sam Hunt Tuesday just minutes after his committee had tabled its scheduled vote on House Bill 3292, legislation that would require public bodies to tape their executive sessions. (See today's editorial.) Given this week's deadline for getting bills out of committee and the fact that Hunt's committee wasn't supposed to meet again this week, the bill appeared to be dead. But Hunt — who said he's a yes vote — told me to stay tuned.

"Sure enough, on Wednesday, the Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs suddenly scheduled another meeting for tonight at 6 p.m. On the agenda: HB 3292.
This might have something to do with the fact that the bill was prime sponsored by Majority Leader Lynn Kessler."

NOW--as in right now--is the time to contact your legislator to support HB 3292. This link lets you type in your zip code and then sends you directly to your legislators' email addresses. Couldn't be easier.

Here is The Olympian's coverage of the new hearing on the bill.

Olympian Editorial Rips the "Reel-to-Reel" Argument Against Taping Bill

Og-blog readers will recall a county official's argument against the taping bill was that recording executive sessions would require "added staff and equipment and creates tape storage problems." Since a digital recorder is the size of a Snickers bar and thousands of hours of executive sessions could be stored on an iPod or computer hard drive, the only way to have "tape storage problems" would be to use reel-to-reel tapes. The idea of using reel-to-reel tapes was (what's the right word?) mocked on og-blog.

The Olympian's editorial similalry mocks the idea that recording executive sessions would create "storage problems." The county official in question is Diane Oberquell. Here is a taste of the editorial:

"In her testimony before the House committee, Oberquell said she is mechanically challenged and she is not sure she could even operate a tape recorder. That speaks volumes.

"But in an interview prior to her public testimony, Commissioner Oberquell offered the lamest excuse of all. She said taping sessions requires added staff members and equipment and creates tape storage problems.

"We recognize that Oberquell has been in public office far too long, but surely she understands that technology has advanced — somewhat — in her 20 years warming the commission seat. With a simple call to a store, Oberquell could find out that a $129 digital voice recorder can record 140 hours of conversation. The recordings then could be downloaded directly onto a computer hard drive and stored forever.

"No extra staff members. No huge expenditure in equipment. No tape storage problems.

"It's time Oberquell and other locally elected officials join the 21st century and recognize that recording executive sessions is something the public wants and expects. It's a matter of accountability."

Seattle Times Editorial on Taping Bill

The Seattle Times writes this. It says, in part:

"Lobbyists for local governments, which mostly oppose the bill, offer arguments that are stupefying. Oh, it's too costly. Can you imagine? Making that argument in this digital age. Gosh, the recordings might fall into the wrong hands. Well, don't you lock up sensitive documents that are exempt from disclosure? False arguments, all."

In addition to the above editorial is this blog posting from Seattle Times editor at large Mike Fancher. It addresses the other argument against the taping bill--that it would have a "chilling effect" on discussion in an executive session. Asks Fancher:

"Is this fight really about the bill's possible chilling effect or the potential for turning up the heat on inappropriate executive sessions?"

(Everett) Herald Editorial on Taping Bill

They just keep coming. This editorial from the (Everett) Herald takes a local legislator to task for voting in committee against the taping bill:

"Rep. Marko Liias, who replaced Sullivan in the Legislature this year and sits on the committee considering HB 3292, opposes it. We urge him to reconsider and give the bill a chance to advance.

"Elected officials who follow the law have nothing to fear from this measure, and will be protected by it they're ever accused of a violation. This bill is about openness and accountability -- just what citizens expect of their government."

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Teacher Union Email Case

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this editorial about the recent ruling that teacher union emails on Seattle School District computers are somehow not "public records." Says the editorial:

"Frankly, we grow weary of these constant back door attacks on the integrity of the state's open records law. A special 'Sunshine Committee' is actively reviewing some 300 exemptions to the law that have been approved by the Legislature over the years with an eye toward keeping those that are justified and recommending repeal of those that are not.

"While that's going on, the public certainly doesn't need any more exemptions added by judicial decree -- especially in what would appear to be a clear misinterpretation of the law that shields union activity conducted with public facilities and equipment."

For more background on the ruling, see this, this, this, and this.

TNT Editorial on Taping Bill

The Tacoma News-Tribune writes this editorial about all the fuss over recording executive sessions. It notes that a $100 digital recorder would do the trick.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tacoma City Council Debates Taping Bill

This blog posting by Jason Hagey of the Tacoma News-Tribune describes the Tacoma City Council's debate about the taping bill. The debate cogently presents many of the arguments for and against the bill and is actually pretty interesting--something that you usually can't say about a city council debate.

Taping Bill Apparently Dead

Fueled in part by concerns about reel-to-reel tapes taking up too much space in government buildings (?!), it looks like the bill to require the recording of executive sessions is dead. It didn't make it out of a key legislative committee. This story in The Olympian explains it all.

Here, too, is a story on the bill's apparent demise from The (Vancouver) Columbian.

We say the bill is "apparently" dead because no bill is dead until the final gavel falls at the end of session.

Ladenburg To Run for AG Against McKenna

The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg is announcing his candidacy for state Attorney General against Rob McKenna.

On open-government issues, this one isn't even close. Pierce County under John Ladenburg has an absolutely awful record on open-government.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Excuse Me Young Man, Which Aisle Are the Reel-to-Reel Tapes In?"

OK, this is crazy. A Thurston County commissioner says in this story from The Olympian that the bill to require recording of executive sessions will require "added staff and equipment and creates tape storage problems."

Tapes? Huh?

Storage problems? A digitial recorder costs about $50 at Office Depot and is the size of a Snickers bar. The only way to have "storage problems" and need additional staff and equipment is if the county tapes the meetings on a reel-to-reel. Do they even make those any more?

If the county needs additional staff to digitially record the meetings, my 12-year old can easily do so. On her iPod she has all the Harry Potter audio books and about a trillion (bad pop) songs--and all of this fits on a something the size of a pack of cards.

UPDATE: Dave Seago, editorial writer for the Tacoma News-Tribune, writes this piece entitled "Taping a Meeting: How Hard is That?" and mentions this og-blog posting.

P-I Story on Testimony on Taping Bill and Great McKenna Quote

The P-I posts this account of the testimony on Monday evening for and against the bill to require governing bodies to record executive sessions.

One part of the story jumped off the screen. Attorney General Rob McKenna was testifying in support of the bill. A legislator told him that there are thousands of public meetings every year and not too many violations so why impose a burdensome requirement like recording. To which McKenna responded:

"The fact is that you'll hear a lot of arguments tonight that are really arguments against having [a] public records act and a public meetings act. If you extend them far enough it would be the same logic as saying 'Well, there are thousands of meetings and very few of them result in violations so we don't need the law.' If it had been up to folks in government we wouldn't have our sunshine laws today."


The Olympian Editorializes in Support of Raising Open Meetings Penalties

The Olympian writes this editorial supporting House Bill 2567 to raise the penalty for violating the Open Public Meetings Act from the current $100 to $1000. They say:

"It’s too easy for elected officials to violate this state’s Open Public Meetings Act. Weighing the punishment against the crime, it’s tempting for public servants to take the risk of an illegal, closed-door session. That’s because the fine for breaking the open meetings law is a paltry $100 — the same amount set by lawmakers when the law was passed in 1971."

Monday, February 4, 2008

P-I Story on Open Meetings Taping Bill--and Call to Action

The P-I writes this story on the bill to require a recording of a closed executive session of a public meeting.

The bill is House Bill 3292 and it's sponsored by the Democratic Majority Leader and the Republican Minority leader and apparently supported by Gov. Gregoire. It's a bill requested by Attorney General McKenna (R), and State Auditor Sonntag (D). If all of these people can agree on something it must be good.

You can contact your legislator by email and let him or her know you support HB 3292. It's amazing what a handful of emails to a legislator can do to pass a law. It will only take a few seconds to send the email. Time is running out to pass bills out of committee.

Interesting Blog on Local Gov't Corruption

Local Government Watch (Washington) is a blog of news stories about local government misdeeds (or alleged misdeeds) in our state. Og-blog readers might find this site interesting because most of the stories on Local Government Watch were made possible by public records or open meetings.

When you are reading stories about individual local governments doing bad things, keep some perspective: there are about 2,500 units of local government in Washington state. Some are bad, some are good, and most are somewhere in between. This is why we need public records and open meetings--to tell the good from the bad and keep all of them accountable.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Pick-A-Party Primary: Your Pick Is Public

Washington's relatively new closed primary requires a voter to declare allegiance (at least for that primary) to only one party and limit his or her vote to candidates from that party. Yuck. Declaring allegiance to a political party (even for one election) is so un-Washington. Voters in Washington are independent-minded ticket-splitters so limiting your primary vote to just one party seems like taking away part of your right to vote. (It kind of is, but that's a topic for someone else's blog.)

Back to the topic of this blog. The (Aberdeen) Daily World reports that a person's choice of political party is a public record. A person's choice of candidate is not a public record, just which party's ballot he or she selected.

Did Puyallup Violate Open Meetings Law?--Update

This Tacoma News-Tribune story looks at whether the City of Puyallup violated the Open Public Meetings Act when it decided to hire a city manager. Some city council members say they "reached an informal consensus on the matter privately," which would be illegal. Other council members deny it.

The story quotes Michele Earl-Hubbard of Allied Law Group.

Update: The TNT adds some newly-discovered details in this February 5, 2008 story.