Local Sunlight


Every week I climb into the depths of the local political blogosphere to find the Sunlight.  I use this series to highlight local blogs that do a great job of covering local, state, and congressional political news.  This week I have highlights from Washington, Virginia, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Alabama.

In Washington Olympia Time has a series of posts on why Thurston County doesn’t have a Web site that meets the needs of the community.  The author was part of a group getting together to make recommendations about redesigning the county Web site and found that one of the problems is that in the mind of county officials the first step was to get all the information on the site.  The author said that this is a great first step, however it was now time to restructure the site so that citizens can find information they need.  His second point is that the county needs to use technology to keep the public informed especially in emergency situations and a Web site structured properly would help that in a lot of ways.  He ends the series by saying that a big problem is the lack of central authority and that it would help a lot if the web would be put under one roof.

In Rhode Island, Hard Deadlines has a post about how 60 officials went to a Q and A with the Rhode Island Ethics Commission Attorney Jason Gramitt.  Gramitt gave an overview of the ethics rules:  when something might be a conflict of interest, how to properly recuse yourself, and gift regulations.  I think it is great when government officials go to sessions on ethics.  The rules can be complicated and sometimes violations happen but the offender didn’t understand the regulations.  So the fact that these “teachings” are going on is a good sign of how committed officials are to ethics and will, hopefully, cut down on ethics violations and make better lawmakers.

In South Dakota, A Progressive on the Prairie has a post on a federal law being considered in Congress that would give shield protection to main street media (msm) bloggers but not to citizen bloggers. Shield laws protect reporters from having to disclose confidential information if they are being subpoenaed.  An amendment to the law that is in the Senate Judiciary Committee would allow protection for bloggers that work for a msm outlet but not for other bloggers.  It is ridiculous to say a msm blogger is different from the main street media in general.  A smart shield law is needed that would protect serious citizen journalists and by seriously studying the blogosphere there can be a better definition of blogger that would make everyone happy.

Left In Alabama has a post about State Treasurer Kay Ivey proposing that community service grants be posted online for the public to see.  The proposal would require that grant applications be posted on the lt governor’s Web site 30 days before a public review.   The proposal was killed by the Commission on Community Service Grants and critics said that the current online state expenditure site deals with transparency of funding, but the site doesn’t give you proposals.  My question is if thee grants are publicly reviewed then why aren’t they online already?  How are they now being disclosed?  Who reviews them?