Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Rio Grande Foundation Gubernatorial Forum.

Only two
showed up
for the
informal Q&A,
Rep Janice

Doug Turner

The rather homogeneous crowd saw no fireworks. In fact, when asked to point to any major policy or philosophical difference that separated them, neither could immediately identify one.

Both had made it quite clear that they were about ending the culture of corruption and about the need for increased transparency as a first step toward that end.

Because I take so much flak for my insistence that candidates promise to tell us the truth about the public interests and about their public service, I decided to rework my question.

Instead of asking, will you promise to tell the truth?,
I asked both to describe the limit on the increased
transparency they advocate.

What is the limit on transparency surrounding the public
interests and their public service?

Being rigid, I was not entirely satisfied with either's answer.

Janice Arnold-Jones quipped that transparency ends at the
restroom door. Doug Turner cited examples of processes that
should be open.

The answer that would have satisfied me entirely would have been;

Every meeting is open to the public, unless the law
specifically and explicitly requires that it be closed.

Every public record is subject to surrender unless the law
specifically and explicitly requires that it be kept hidden.

And most importantly, decisions limiting access to
meetings and public records must be made by an impartial
third party, in strict accordance with the spirit of open
government laws.

The appearance of a conflict of interest in allowing those
with the most to "hide", to close meetings and redact
public records must be addressed by ending the practice.

The limit on transparency is; as much as the law will allow.

Rep Janice Arnold-Jones was the "winner" in my opinion,
based on the depth and breadth of her responses, bases on her
12 years of experience as a committed legislator.
She was able to illustrate points with concrete examples.

Doug Turner
seemed as fluent in philosophical underpinnings
but less conversant in specifics.

photos Mark Bralley


Doug Thomas said...

There are many examples of "the public's business" which should remain unavailable to the general public, for good and sufficient reasons. Some of them are: the record of jury deliberations; documents which are generated in the course of criminal investigations; details of bidders' proposals which could give proprietary information to competitors; committee meetings at which personnel actions are discussed, when the deliberations involve specific named employees or potential employees; records of state medical professionals which detail any treatment or advice given to a person, whether a public servant or a private citizen; private information about person, whether public servant or private citizen, the divulging of which could bring harm to said person, such as banking or medical records; deliberations of a public body regarding the expenditure of public funds which might give an unfair advantage to a company or individual, such as someone gaining prior knowledge of the route a new highway will take, in order that said person might acquire said property in anticipation of a profitable sale; and many other situations.

We the public must, at some point, trust in the people we have put in office and through them, other people who come to hold offices in the state.

We are not, as citizens, entitled to know every single word or proceeding that is conducted in the public's interest.

Where misuse of the "special trust and confidence" is discovered, then appropriate measures up to and including criminal proceedings then become appropriate.

ched macquigg said...

I could not agree more. Every example you cite is already protected by law and not subject to surrender.

If the laws which provide exception to surrender are inadequate then they need to be rewritten.

In the meantime, if it is not protected by law, politicians and public servants cannot just make up a law to protect them.

The difference between what is told and what is not, can be determined by due process.

The "... misuse of the "special trust and confidence" can not be discovered if there is no process in place to uncover it.