Tim Crews, the California newspaper journalist most repeatedly saluted by his professional peers for fearless and tireless reporting on the failings of local government, law enforcement and courts, was elected Saturday as president of Californians Aware.
Acting at its annual meeting in San Diego, the CalAware board of directors also elected:
• as vice president, Bob Stern, principal drafter of the Voters' Right to Know Act on California's November 2016 ballot, principal co-author of the Political Reform Act of 1974 and the founding general counsel of the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC);
• as secretary-treasurer, Emelyn Rodriguez, senior commission counsel with the FPPC;
• as president emerita, CalAware's immediate past president and former San Diego City Council member Donna Frye; and
• as its newest member, Alicia Lewis, a member's chief of staff in the California Assembly (participating as a private citizen).
Mr. Crews, a founding director of CalAware in 2004, is editor and publisher of Glenn County's twice-weekly Sacramento Valley Mirror, which the California Press Association has called "California's most courageous newspaper.” His unmatched readiness as a journalist to go to court to keep local government meetings and records open to the public is of a piece with the substance and success of his reporting, winning him the Freedom of Information Award in three annual contests conducted by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. He is the only living journalist in the state known to have served jail time for refusing to name a source of published information subpoenaed in a criminal prosecution. For this act of principled refusal, coupled with his activism for governmental transparency generally, he has received:
- the Bill Farr Award of the California Society of Newspaper Editors in 2000;
- Hofstra University’s Francis Frost Wood Courage in Journalism Award in 2004;
- the California Press Association’s Newspaper Executive of the Year Award in 2009; and
- the Norwin Yoffie Lifetime Achievement Award of the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2011.
Mr. Crews has had his office burgled, his building set afire, his car’s brakes and wheels weakened to the point of failure and his dog poisoned. His impatience with the pace and incompleteness of response to a public records request led him to be charged with “frivolous” litigation by a local judge and ordered to pay almost $60,000 in a public agency’s attorney’s fees. That punitive burden would have ended his publishing career but was rejected by the California Court of Appeal in 2013, in a decision protecting aggressive use of the courts to keep government open in the public interest.
Alicia Lewis is Chief of Staff for Assemblymember Nora Campos, representing San Jose and the heart of Silicon Valley. She is helping lead a legislative team on pushing forward the issues of diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), ending human trafficking, and closing the gender wage gap. Prior to the Assembly, she worked as a lobbyist for the League of California Cities, representing 473 cities on issues related to open government, elections, and labor relations. During her time at the League, she started the process of integrating chief information and data officers into the association and helping increase their footprint on state legislative efforts.
Previously, Ms. Lewis served for several years as a deputy legislative director in the California Senate, working among other things on numerous bills to increase government transparency, enhance open-meeting laws, and strengthen the California Public Records Act. In 2012, Ms. Lewis helped move policy to provide the first social media privacy protections for students, and led the first efforts on trying to get local government to provide electronic data in an open format. She is a 2011 recipient of the James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.