What Gets Measured Gets Publicized? — If a k-12 public school district systematically tracks the average learning progress of each teacher’s class in terms of test scores, should that information be on the public record? The Los Angeles Times says yes, and is suing the city’s public school system for the data linked to each teacher’s name. But an interesting question of equity arises. No such metrics are even required to be gathered, much less released, for individual public college and university professors, or for at least equally important professionals in the criminal justice system—badged officers, prosecutors and judges, prison wardens and probation officers—or indeed of almost anyone else in government. How to Extinguish a Nosy Newspaper — What’s frivolous about a lawsuit to force release of emails that might confirm a tip that a school superintendent used public funds and resources to influence a bond election and a ballot race for the county superintendent of schools? Everything, said a judge in rural Glenn County between Sacramento and Redding: suing too soon and being too aggressive in a case in which thousands of emails (and attachments) were withheld without explanation or justification. But “frivolous” in this context is not just a basis for dismissal. It’s been used to warrant an order to the requester to pay the district more than $56,000 in attorney’s fees. The plaintiff, a nearly impoverished but gutsy newspaper publisher in a poor rural county who’s never really operated in the black, says if that order stands it will ruin him.
CSU Nickels and Dimes Students for Email Copies A student editor at the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s campus newspaper, asked the CSU headquarters in Long Beach for a copy of an email sent by the system’s chancellor, Charles Reed, to all campus presidents, about faculty members’ politicking in class and Prop 30. CSU headquarters, after at first denying the request, citing university policy, then responded that sending him the email would cost 20 cents and he would have to pay first—by check. Punished for Asking Too Early, Too Hard and Too Long The City of Sebastopol, sued for public records showing what it knew and didn’t do about an unsafe street condition that left her an indigent paraplegic, convinced a court that her lawyer was oppressively zealous and that she should pay it more than $80,000 for asking for too much information from too many officials. The Willows Unified School District, sued for public records showing whether its superintendent improperly influenced the electoral process, convinced a court that the weekly newspaper editor who pushed for the information and got some but not much, was liable for $56,000 for pressing too early and too hard. Californians Aware has submitted friend-of-the-court briefs supporting both requesters against these misplaced fee orders punishing supposedly “frivolous” litigation.
Candidates for public office in California and elsewhere commonly make promises they either know they will not be able to keep or are too inexperienced to know no one could keep. But in doing so they play on just enough of the right medley of public anxieties, resentments and wistful myths that the melody sustains them while no one holds them to the lyrics. What if a candidate were modest enough to say simply, “Here’s what I’ve accomplished; here’s what I’ll try to do; and here’s what I absolutely will (and will not) do”? In case there are any of that caliber around, the following is a 10-point Sunshine Pledge responsive to that third commitment, which, if adopted, should merit the vote of anyone of any party—at least against any competitor who won’t make such a commitment. What it tells the public seeking some distinguishing mark in a sea of untested faces is that this candidate, if elected, won’t be pulling up the ladder but instead lowering others, welcoming the community aboard.
One week after Californians Aware and the online investigative news site Voice of OC filed suit against Orange County for release of a politically controversial letter, the county on Friday released a redacted version to local media generally. But, as noted in the report by Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana, the release will probably not halt the Public Records Act lawsuit.
On a bipartisan 51-0 vote the state Assembly on Thursday passed a bill allowing local government bodies under the Brown Act to meet privately with the Governor, reports Judy Lin for the Associated Press. The bill is being carried by Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita as a favor to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich. The supervisor persuaded his colleagues to tell the county’s lobbyists to seek the legislation less than a week after Californians Aware sued the county for violation of the Brown Act on February 3. Smyth introduced an empty spot bill vehicle on the Brown Act on February 16, then amended in the current content on March 29. The county’s violations, which it recently disowned and pledged not to repeat in a settlement with CalAware, consisted of three unlawfully closed sessions last September, supposedly to address the security of public buildings and infrastructure from terrorists and other threats of disruption. Two of the sessions involved Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., and the topic was not security but the county’s need for state help in affording the impacts of Brown’s “Realignment” of state prisoners to county jails. A recently released tape recording of the in-person meeting shows the Governor poking fun at what he called the “Brown Act cover story” prepared by county counsel. The bill is actually a pared-down version of Antonovich’s original idea, which included closed sessions to allow local councils and boards to huddle secretly with the President as well. Smyth’s AB 1736 incorporates the fraudulent pretext for secrecy fronting last September’s meetings by declaring that despite the state constitution’s presumption that government meetings are public, Without some freedom to protect sensitive information, security is compromised. Therefore, the [...]
A trove of email messages among Oakland city officials reacting to Occupy campers in the city’s main plaza last October, obtained and posted online by the Alameda Newspaper Group, makes two interesting points.
As screens and keyboards increasingly show up under the noses of officials conducting open meetings throughout the state, audience reactions range from resentment at the perceived discourtesy shown the public in attendance to downright distrust of members suspected of messaging one another to hold secret meetings in plain sight, or taking off-the record testimony or instructions from lobbyists or others in the audience or miles away. Recent reports by Lori Carter for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat and Nick Gerda for the Voice of OC provide examples.
Only days after Californians Aware filed a court action challenging the lawfulness of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors’ two nonpublic meetings with Governor Jerry Brown last fall, the Board today directed staff to seek a Brown Act amendment from the Legislature allowing local bodies to hold private meetings with governors—and with U.S. Presidents as well. Ari Bloomekatz reports the lawsuit filing and the lobbying approval in the Los Angeles Times.
Californians Aware today filed suit against the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, challenging, as violations of several provisions of the Brown Act, the Board’s use of nonpublic meetings last fall to confer with Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. concerning the financial impact on the county of the impending transfer of thousands of state prisoners to local jail custody and responsibility.
The decision of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis not to prosecute a quartet of Occupy hecklers at Mayor Jerry Sanders’s State of the City speech recently contrasts with Orange County D.A. Tony Rackauckas’s successful prosecution of a group of Muslim students who persistently interrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at UC Irvine two years ago. Some Muslims (and others) might assume that the disparate treatment was a matter of simple bigotry, but the more likely explanation is one of small but telling differences.