‘..don’t meet in secret and your safe.’

13 12 2007

So, I’ve been banging on a gong about the Sunshine Law here in our fair state. I’ve been pulling hair and gnashing teeth with a few other folks and we have been trying to get your attention.

And, it appears that it’s working to a degree and that delights me to no end.

Here are some observations I’ve noticed, and if you want an ongoing list about this, check out Michael Silence or TennViews for their daily snippets about what Tennesseans are saying.

But, I guess I need to answer some questions. A couple of folks have asked me if I have a vested interest in the future of the Law because of what I do for a living. That’s fair.

Although I should have anticipated that my assertion on the matter would spark questions, I just haven’t had  enough time to address some of the concerns.

First of all, I was called an “interested party” over at Left Wing Cracker and that is unabashedly the truth, but not because I work in a small slice of the media. I probably have more access to a great deal, quite frankly, in my local environment than the average bear. I’ve worked here for 17 years in different capacities. I tell you that in the spirit of disclosure.

I’m a human who makes mistakes but I also have a reputation for being fair that I’ve worked very hard to gain. The relationships that I’ve forged have allowed an ongoing dialogue over the years.  With that said, in my little pond where I’m planted, information isn’t that hard to get.

Why am I telling you this?

Easy, because I’ve said time and time again it’s not about the media having access. Government uses the media (and it’s a two way street) when they need something and I work in a business that is all about communication. Most times this relationship works.

The choice of average citizens having access to these meetings is what I have said and I will keep on saying because it is crucial. Media has changed so much since I became involved (I used to actually splice tape from a reel-to-reel for soundbites for my news broadcasts. I didn’t mix or sample, I used a razor blade to find the spot that I needed and *snip*) Now, we have the world of citizen journalists, folks taking video with cell phones and keeping up with government and policy through this wonderful self-publishing platforms you are reading right now.

I’m thinking it has people confused, especially those folks in government. Hell, I’m confused about it myself sometimes because it changes so fast. Sometimes I read Jackson Miller or Doug at Reality Me and go “Huh” because I’m trying to keep up with new online applications of communications.

The Ken Whiteheads, the Tom Humphreys, the John Carneys and the Jack Lails are going to have access as well in much larger markets than the one I’m in.

We are going to be all right.

But what about the guy that is not a traditional journalist or the person on the street who is interested. What if decisions are made that impact the Average Joes lives and we, as citizens not media) are blindsided by it.

Vibinc wrote this yesterday and he hits it on the head:

Citizens have a right to know the pros and cons of any business that comes before a public body. This is the nature of our democratic republic. Efforts to subvert this flow of information, regardless of whether the public uses it or not, also subvert the spirit of our representative form of government.

Considering all of the shenanigans that have taken place over the past several years, one would think that members of local boards would want to insulate themselves from any appearance of impropriety. Instead we have elected officials seeking to weaken the public meetings portion of the law by increasing the number of people that can meet privately to 2 or 3 or even more maddeningly, anything less than a quorum, to supposedly insulate themselves from potential prosecution. Here’s an idea, don’t meet in secret and you’re safe.

See, he gets that it’s about citizens.

I hope I have disclosed well enough.  You are right, I am an interested party. And when I read stories like this about our nation’s leader expanding government 1,100 times since he took office, so many times through presidential directives, I pay attention. It’s unrelated, but then again, we don’t want our state’s elected officials to place them in positions where the will of the people is ignored for convenience’s sake.

We vote for those who govern. The average citizen can make more of a difference than a member of the media, in all honesty.
I probably won’t be in news in the next couple of years, but I am a citizen as well. And I want to know what’s going on.

After all, it’s our country, not the handful of the elected.



One response

13 12 2007
Volunteer Voters » Vested Interests In Open Government

[…] a journalist by trade, addresses the contention by some that she has a vested interest in strong Sunshine laws and open government because of her occupation: A couple of folks have asked […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: