Gratitude first. We at CalAware truly appreciate the support we’ve received this year in the form of membership dues and extra contributions. We get no government grants or steady foundation backing, relying instead almost entirely on book sales, training session fees and individual generosity. People like you reading this have made it all possible.
Consequently, please consider our appeal for either something extra in this season of giving, or a first-time contribution from those of you who may be new to what we do.
In the past year, what we’ve done is to:
- co-sponsor successful legislation that will provide a new procedure for citizens to challenge local government meeting practices they believe to be in violation of the Brown Act (SB 1003), and will allow badly needed technical stabilization of the Secretary of State’s Cal-Access campaign financing disclosure website, financed by new fees payable by lobbyists and political committees (SB 1001);
- successfully sue the Los Angeles and San Diego County Boards of Supervisors for Brown Act violations, forcing pledges not to repeat misleading practices;
- file suit with the Los Angeles Times challenging improper closed meetings by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, and file suit with the Voice of OC demanding access to complaints alleging corruption, withheld from the public by the government of Orange County;
- file friend of the court briefs supporting a feisty but unprosperous community newspaper publisher and (in 2011) a quadriplegic accident victim against court orders to pay government attorney’s fees for purportedly “frivolous” suits to obtain public records—$56,000 payable to the Willows Unified School District and $42,000 payable to the City of Sebastopol, respectively;
- conduct a change.org petition drive to support legislation to revive Brown Act agenda posting requirements suspended by the Legislature;
- join city attorney panelists in District Attorney Steve Cooley’s Brown Act enforcement briefing for local agency lawyers in Los Angeles County;
- provide workshop training on the open government laws for the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials and the Construction Industry Force Account Council;
- publish the 500-plus page CalAware Guide to Public Records and Private Information in California; and
- answer hundreds of queries from citizens, public officials and employees, and journalists on open government and free speech laws and practices.
In the coming year, we will:
- sponsor legislation to protect citizens from ruinous obligations to pay government agencies’ attorney fees for filing good faith but unsuccessful lawsuits challenging government spending for campaign publicity;
- sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to require disclosure of the source of out-of-state campaign financing;
- sponsor or co-sponsor legislation to amend the state constitution to require at least a three-day sunshine period between late-session "gut-and-amend" moves by committees of the Legislature and floor action on those typically controversial measures;
- release a new audit of the open government practices of one of the state’s most powerful and consequential public institutions;
- publish a second edition of the CalAware Guide to Journalism Law in California, in both pocket paperback and eBook formats.
Last May when our founding executive director (and my daughter) Emily departed to train for a nursing career, many remarked how greatly her organizational skills, experience, savvy and tireless energy would be missed. How right they were! Some administrative, business and technical services can be and have been contracted for, but those do not come free. And an unexpected cost-driver this summer was a malware attack on our website that required both correction and protective adjustments for the future. Fortunately there was never a risk to supporters’ financial records (since the site carries none) and the site is now secure in all other respects, although needing some repairs and updating we also expect to see early next year.
Lean If Not Mean
Please and Thank You! And best wishes for warm and restorative holidays.