Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “Information is the currency of democracy”

  • The Salt Lake Tribune covered a  University of Utah honors class project: developing a set of five guiding principles to help local governments throughout the state increase transparency. The project’s goal is to persuade all 270-plus county and city governments in Utah to adopt their  principles to make their government more open. The projects focused on transparency in the age of the Internet. Moreover, the class itself operated in a transparent manner: “Every lecture was videotaped; every class presentation, too. Students had to comment daily on Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and blogs. Anyone who wanted could see what the Think Tank and its individual members were up to — and some students developed notable followings.” Theresa Krause, one of the participating students, maintained  “Information is the currency of democracy. It is the key to citizen engagement.  “The Internet has made data available and changed the way we think about transparency and access to government.” For the whole story, check out Mike Gorell’s post on the Salt Lake Tribune.
  • The week, the Maine House rejected a bill that would have exempted the governor’s working papers from the state’s Freedom of Access laws.  The bill would have also exempted some members of the governor’s staff from Freedom of Access Act, at least until the end of the legislative session. They include the governor’s chief of staff, legal counsel, director of policy and employees under their direct supervision. Representative Kim Monaghan-Derrig told her colleagues that she worried the bill would  hurt the state’s transparency. For more information, see Susan Sharon’s post on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. 
  • In order to avoid a violation of the Massachusetts Open Meetings Law, Scituate selectmen met for a special meeting to reaffirm a vote they took to approve contracts with non-union employees. In an executive session last November, the board voted to approve the contracts, including the contract for the Town Administrator, which is a violation of the open meeting law. They reaffirmed the vote in an open session this week. Selectmen Chair Tony Vegnani addressed the issue and said, “We met this evening to address a ruling from the Town of Carver, in regards to the Open Meeting Law. In November, we accepted three non-union contracts; the Town Accountant, Town Treasurer and Town Administrator and we did it in executive session. A month later in December, a ruling of the Open Meeting Law said that contracts needed to be accepted in open session. We read it in Beacon and talked to town counsel about it and they thought it would prudent, if we actually accepted the contracts in open meeting, as opposed to executive session.” For the whole story, see John Penny’s post on 959 WATD. 
  • The McPherson School building is an old Illinois building  with an incredibly rich history. The building will be on the receiving end of a million dollar infrastructure improvement project. The funds will be dispersed by the Illinois Local School Council (LSC).  According to Patrick Boylan, “Our biggest complaint about McPherson is there is a corporate culture apparent that wants secrecy.” He maintains, “The price for those public dollars should be greater transparency at McPherson. Alone, of the LSCs examined by The Bulldog, McPherson has no records available to the public. It puts hurdles up to public access and it may be responsible, in part, for the decision by CPS to restrict public access to LSC election information. That culture of mistrust must change.” He calls on the Local School Council to make their process more transparent by disclosing meeting minutes and agendas online and making meetings more inclusive to the public. For his take, check out his post on the Wells Park Bulldog. 
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