Sunshine Week highlights open government efforts

There are 12 comments on the Mar 16, 2010, californiawatch.org story titled Sunshine Week highlights open government efforts. In it, californiawatch.org reports that:


CALIFORNIA WatchBlog

March 16, 2010 | Chase Davis

Budget cuts and furloughs have made it more difficult for the public to quickly access critical government documents, despite laws entitling them to the information, according to a story yesterday in the Sacramento Bee.

The report was written to coincide with Sunshine Week – an annual nationwide effort spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to promote open government – which began Sunday.

The story outlines several examples of times when California reporters were denied timely access to records, or charged thousands of dollars, which they opted not to pay:

• In The Bee's investigation of deadly lapses at Sacramento County Child Protective Services, reporters discovered scores of agency employees with criminal records, including a registered sex offender. They requested e-mails for a few administrators to learn whether they knew about that individual's conviction. The county demanded $7,049 – 53 hours at $133 per hour – to produce the e-mails. The Bee declined to pay, the e-mails never were released and the public never learned whether administrators had a clue.

• To find out if Sacramento County unduly spared managers in last year's massive layoffs, a Bee reporter requested a list of employees by category over the last few years. The county did the work, for which it billed $1,500, for "data compilation, extraction and programming." Because The Bee would not pay, the list never was released and readers did not learn whether managers received special treatment.

• Voiceofsandiego.org, a nonprofit news Web site, asked the San Diego County District Attorney's Office for data on enhancements in criminal sentencing. (cont'd)

MORE .. CALIFORNIA WatchBlog

SUNSHINE WEEK web site

Norhtern California Association of Law Libraries

San Bernardino League of Women Voters .. National Webinar

Join the discussion below, or Read more at californiawatch.org.

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#1 Mar 16, 2010
~~!~~

For Local, County, and most State agencies – Legislature is separate

California Public Records Act

Documented by the CA Attorney General

http://ag.ca.gov/publications/summary_public_...

///\\\

For Federal Agencies;

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/foia.html

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#2 Mar 13, 2011
~~!~~

It is that time again ... SUNSHINE WEEK ... the freedom for "We the people" to have access to nearly all information and the details of actions by our local, county, state and national governments.

~~~~~

"The Fresno Bee" EDITORIAL:

Sunshine Week focuses on teaching secrecy is the enemy of democracy

The more citizens know of their rights to records, the better chance to get them.

Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011

It's Sunshine Week, and supporters of open government will spend the next several days reminding citizens and their representatives that activities of government at every level must be conducted in public. This is a principle that's fundamental to our representative democracy.

The public has many tools to ensure a transparent government, including the federal Freedom of Information Act and the California Public Records Act and the Brown Act, the crucial open-meetings law. Secrecy is the enemy of democracy.

The Sunshine laws helped reveal the corruption in the Southern California cities of Bell and Vernon. Public officials in those cities had been hiding their outrageous pay and benefits.

Bee reporters recently used public records requests to compile a salary data base of public employees working in cities and counties in Central California, and to force Fresno's Public Safety Retirement Board to reveal the identities of participants in the pension system receiving more than $100,000 a year in pension payments.

Taxpayers have a right to know how much they are spending on every facet of government, including salaries and pensions. Many public officials try to treat public information as their personal property, and would shut out citizens from viewing much of it. That's why laws ensuring that public information remains public is so important.

Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/03/11/2306640/e...

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#3 Mar 13, 2011
~~!~~

In Orange Cove public records access and adherence to the Brown Act have improved dramatically in the past couple of years.

I would give the EX-City Manager a grade of B+ on public records access. Record requests were not stonewalled or ignored as they were in the Lopez/Little administration, in collusion with the Lopez-Council/City Attorney. However, the EX-City Manager should have been more adept and pro-active in distribution of public info using news releases to our local and regional media.

Production of factual information will seldom get good managers in trouble with their constituents … however, even the perception of cover-up or obfuscation causes great harm to all parties concerned.

Until the current City Council changed the City Attorney position, adherence to Brown Act rules were a B or maybe a C-. Until Lopez was totally removed from the process, there were still shadows of cronyism at some government functions.

Congratulations Orange Cove, Open-Transparent-Government is no longer a shadowy “dreamed about concept”, but is a reality that will make this a better place.

eldon thompson
Government Accountability Advocate

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#4 Mar 14, 2011
~~!~~

SUNSHINE WEEK ...

"
"Citizen journalist" Sally Arguilez Smith meets with Cody Naylor, legislative assistant to Assemblymember Toni Atkin of the 76th District at the Capitol recently. Smith is one of six "citizen journalists" who have pressed accountability among public officials and entities. We plan a tight lead-in introducing Sunshine Week and the concept of citizen advocates. March 10, 2011"

VIEW the picture here;
http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3473043_a347...

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#5 Mar 14, 2011
~~!~~

Monday, March 14, 2011

Citizen-watchdogs are what Sunshine Week is all about

By Marjie Lundstrom .. mlundstrom@sacbee.com

They have been called gadflies and kooks and names not suitable for publication. They have also been called heroes.

Say what you will about these plucky citizens who champion open government, but you'll have to agree: They are persistent.

And how.

As California and other states observe Sunshine Week - a national initiative to promote government transparency - we offer a closer look at citizen-watchdogs who have blazed the way.

It's not for the fainthearted.

Rich McKee, a retired chemistry professor at Pasadena City College who frequently rattles government cages, found himself on the hook in 2009 for $80,000 in legal fees from an unsuccessful lawsuit against the Orange Unified School District.

McKee paid the monster legal fees. A subsequent bill by Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco now prohibits public entities from collecting legal fees in open-access cases, unless the court deems the suit frivolous.

"I couldn't afford another loss like that," McKee said.

While Sunshine Week was created by journalists, its mission is to raise awareness about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. In California, governmental entities are subject to laws on public records and open meetings (see our Sunshine glossary).

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3473043/citi...

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#6 Mar 14, 2011
~~!~~

Sunshine glossary

• Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act – California's 2004 open-meeting act covers all statewide boards and commissions. It generally requires these bodies to give public notice of meetings, prepare agendas, accept public testimony and conduct meetings in public unless specifically authorized by the act to meet in closed session.

• California Public Records Act – Signed into law in 1968, the act requires that state and local governmental records be disclosed to the public upon request, unless there is a specific law to the contrary. Exemptions typically are based on an individual's right to privacy (e.g., medical records), a business group's competitive interests (e.g., trade secrets) or the government's need to work efficiently (e.g., litigation strategy).

• U.S. Freedom of Information Act – The federal law ensures public access to U.S. government records and, like the California Public Records Act, carries a presumption of disclosure. This means the burden is on the government, not the public, to show why information may not be released upon written request.

• Ralph M. Brown Act – Enacted in California in 1953 (and amended many times since), the Brown Act guarantees the public's right to attend and participate in meetings of local government bodies. The law was a response to mounting concerns about secret meetings among local officials and a lack of adequate advance notice about meetings and their content.

• Sunshine ordinance – A law passed by local government or local ballot initiative to ensure that public bodies are more transparent, accountable and friendly to citizen participation than is required under the standards of the Brown Act or California Public Records Act. Sunshine ordinances have been adopted in Benicia, Contra Costa County, Gilroy, Milpitas, Oakland, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Vallejo, and are under consideration in Berkeley, Alameda and Brea.

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#7 Mar 14, 2011
~~!~~

But not all officials necessarily obey the laws, as the following six citizens have found in their quests for open government. They admit they are both revered and reviled in their communities - and absolutely undeterred.

First:

Former mayor dubbed her 'Miss Brown Act'

Ourania Riddle, 62, Dixon

History: Has filed numerous complaints of open-meeting violations in Solano County and Dixon; drafted a proposed sunshine ordinance for Dixon.

Advice: "Be persistent and don't give up.... Every time I make something happen, I get a rejuvenating feeling."

When a former mayor of Dixon nicknamed Ourania Riddle (pronounced you-RAY-nee-ah) "Miss Brown Act," it was not necessarily a compliment.

Don't tell her that. Riddle is proud of her prolific filing of complaints about open-meeting violations in Dixon, 23 miles west of Sacramento. "I had to live up to my name," says Riddle, an open-government activist for more than 20 years.

Since 1989, Riddle has become a fixture at public meetings, demanding accountability. She has been a stickler about enforcement of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which guarantees the public's right to attend and participate in meetings of local government bodies.

"I'm an involved citizen," she says. "I decided I was going to try to keep the foundation our forefathers gave us."

Born and raised in Athens, Greece, the cradle of democracy, Riddle emigrated at age 17 and took her U.S. citizenship oath seriously, she said.

Apparently, Solano County officials take her seriously, too. When the district attorney for 17 years - the person she had peppered with Brown Act complaints - retired last year, she was invited to his farewell party.

She plans to meet soon with the new DA and recently told his representative: "Look, I'm not going to go away, so you'd better know who I am and what I am doing."

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3473043/citi...

~~!~~

“Government Accountability”

Since: Oct 07

Orange Cove

#8 Mar 14, 2011
~~!~~

But not all officials necessarily obey the laws, as the following six citizens have found in their quests for open government. They admit they are both revered and reviled in their communities - and absolutely undeterred.

Second:

She wages war on fees in public schools

Sally Arguilez Smith, 52, San Diego

History: Parent activist; uses the California Public Records Act to fight fees in public schools.

Advice: "Citizens have lost the knowledge that the government belongs to us.... My advice is to spread the word to others and connect with open-government groups such as Californians Aware. Our interest makes better government!"

Sally Arguilez Smith is not a universally popular figure in the administrative offices of her daughter's San Diego high school, which all three of her children have attended. Last year, the principal threatened her in a letter with arrest, describing her behavior on campus with words like "obnoxious" and "belligerent."

Smith is on a mission to rid public schools of the practice of assessing fees to students for such programs as art, athletics, band, cheerleading and other extracurricular activities.

To that end, she has become a Public Records Act machine, teaching herself how to squeeze information out of recalcitrant school districts. And, she has filed complaints and appeared before school boards on behalf of other parents who fear retaliation, she said.

She believes her arrest letter was retaliatory for "my squawking about illegal school fees." The ordeal was "intimidating," she said, but she hasn't backed down.

Her position was bolstered by the settlement of a landmark lawsuit last year. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state to force schools to stop charging such fees, since the California Constitution guarantees a free public education.

The San Diego grand jury also concluded that such fees were prohibited under California law, yet they remain rampant. The panel cited examples in San Diego high schools such as $1,833 for a cheerleading program,$400 for wrestling,$180 for water polo and $100 for a swimming program.

"So many families are just barely making it," said Smith. "And their children pay the price."

Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3473043/citi...

~~!~~

“Fair & Balanced Editing”

Since: Jun 10

Orange Cove (Fresno County) CA

#9 Mar 15, 2011
<<<--->>>

Open government doesn't just happen

Mar. 14, 2011
Visalia Times-Delta

The Visalia Unified School District received a perfect score in a random check of its accessibility by CalAware, a statewide advocate for open government.

That's the good news. Unfortunately, Visalia Unified is the exception in California.

Here during Sunshine Week, it is another indication that the objective of completely open government is an ideal that is rarely realized.

CalAware sampled 197 school districts in California at random to assess their compliance with public records requests. The request was made via e-mail and asked for results of the most recent settlement the districts had made regarding a lawsuit brought by a student. The request included information such as the details of the claim, its resolution and the information from the school board when it approved the settlement as well as the district's records policy.

The districts were graded on the basis of thorough and timely compliance, excessive copying charges, illegal screening and passing the buck.

Only 21 percent of school districts statewide had a perfect score. The average score was 57 out of 100, an F. More than half of the districts scored an F.

Other local districts passed, but not with flying colors. Dinuba scored a 90 because it took two months to provide the information. The law allows agencies 10 days to either provide the information or provide a reason why the information can't be released.

MORE ... Visalia Times-Delta .. http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/article/2011... |newswell|text|Frontpage|p

~~~

CalAware ... http://www.calaware.net/default.asp

<<<--->>>

“Fair & Balanced Editing”

Since: Jun 10

Orange Cove (Fresno County) CA

#10 Mar 20, 2011
<<<--->>>

Records: You have a right to see them, but some agencies resist

Mar. 19, 2011

While California law allows for access to public documents, many local government agencies put barriers in the way.

Sunshine Week, which started Sunday, is an attempt to create a national dialogue about something fundamental to American life, the importance of open government and free access to information.

It's something most of us take for granted, but shouldn't.

California law clearly spells out the public's right to immediately access certain documents, such as budgets, salary information, statements of economic interest and expense records. But many times — intentionally or unintentionally — local governments violate those laws by blocking access to those documents.

Times-Delta and Advance-Register staff members celebrated public records laws by conducting a week-long audit of access at local public agencies.
Our reporters were assigned to test access to ordinary public documents at six public agencies in Tulare County, ranging from the Tulare County Office of Education to a small water district.

What we found was that while some local officials go to great lengths to comply with the law, others aren't as open about the way they do business.

At practically every stop, requests for the documents were met with suspicion. Times-Delta and Advance-Register reporters seeking the documents were asked who they were, sometimes several times, and why they wanted the information (state law does not require a person to answer such questions when requesting public documents).

MORE ... http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/article/2011... |topnews|text|Frontpage

<<<--->>>

“Fair & Balanced Editing”

Since: Jun 10

Orange Cove (Fresno County) CA

#11 Mar 20, 2011
<<<--->>>

public record primer

> What is a public record?

All records of state and local governments in California (but not of the courts or the Legislature) are available to the public, with the exception of some that have been specifically exempted by law. The basic public records law is the California Public Records Act.

> How to get a public record

You can gain access to a public record, but first you have to find out where it is. The locations of some, like minutes of meetings of public agencies such as a City Council, are easy to find. In most cities, the city clerk holds them. Others are more difficult. Generally, if you know the agency that deals with the general subject of the record, you can probably find the record there, or get good advice on who has it.

> What records aren't public?

Records that reveal personal and intimate information about individuals, records whose revelation would jeopardize a criminal investigation or security, records in the criminal justice system that are sealed or whose revelation would jeopardize people's — especially victims'— rights, and records that would place a government agency at a disadvantage in labor, real estate or business negotiations.

> What if you're turned down?

If an agency denies you access to a record, you should first ask the basis for the denial, both the reasoning and the underlying section of the law that gives the agency the right to turn you down. If you don't agree, you have the right to take the agency to court. If you win, you can ask the judge to order the agency to pay your legal expenses.

Source: The California Public Records Act, which covers most public documents in the state, is contained in the Fair Political Practices Act.

MORE ... Visalia Times-Delta ... http://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/article/2011... |topnews|text|Frontpage

<<<--->>>
Grace

Los Angeles, CA

#12 Aug 31, 2013
thompson-Western Mavrick wrote:
~~!~~
SUNSHINE WEEK ...
"
"Citizen journalist" Sally Arguilez Smith meets with Cody Naylor, legislative assistant to Assemblymember Toni Atkin of the 76th District at the Capitol recently. Smith is one of six "citizen journalists" who have pressed accountability among public officials and entities. We plan a tight lead-in introducing Sunshine Week and the concept of citizen advocates. March 10, 2011"
VIEW the picture here;
http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/14/3473043_a347...
~~!~~
RANKIN RAPES HIS MONKEY

Mister_Sunshine | Jul 1, 2013
One has to wonder why PEE WEE RANKIN was so desperate to flee the scene - could it be that there was something in the OC Times truck that would have been of far greater consequences than doing what he had already done? Was there a package in that truck that contained a large sum of cash? A package that contained drugs perhaps? Call it speculation, but it is not a stretch of the imagination - knowing that drug runners routinely leave the scene of "accidents" they cause, because if their vehicle gets searched, they do some serious time.

This may also explain why RANKIN THUGS are fighting so hard to protect Rankin

Tell me when this thread is updated:

Subscribe Now Add to my Tracker

Add your comments below

Characters left: 4000

Please note by submitting this form you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator. Send us your feedback.

San Diego County Discussions

Title Updated Last By Comments
News DA Files Charges in Multi-Million-Dollar Invest... Mar '15 Mazur and Manjarrez 3
illegal immigration (Apr '06) Mar '15 Kpedo 453
News Public to comment on predator's residency (May '14) Mar '15 Lee Cahalan 2
San Diego County Sheriff Department: Law Enfor... Feb '15 Libi Uremovic 1
James Turner and Tina Walton Jan '15 telling it like i... 1
News Lawyer Dad Arrested Over Teen's Epic 'Playboy' ... Jan '15 dragoon70056 5
News Woman plunging San Diego toilet pulls up 5 1/2-... Jan '15 Tea Bag Residue C... 3
More from around the web