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(CalAware Weekly comprises this plus the previous three posts)

Open Government

What Questions Would You Like Asked?      OMB Watch is running a short survey to try and find the best open government questions to put to presidential candidates this year and is asking anyone interested to participate. Sean Moulton, OMB Watch’s director for federal information policy, says:

Take just a few minutes to answer our “Open Government: What We Need To Know” survey and vote on your five favorite questions on the issue of government transparency and openness. We will then share the top questions with the news media and other organizations that have direct contact with candidates.

Comment: Time to Stand against Secrecy    Contra Costa Times investigative reporter Tom Peele challenges you
to ask yourself a list of questions about your experience in seeking public information—then start getting assertive if you find your request stalled, stonewalled or stymied.

Free Speech

“Choose Life” OK for License Plate        The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an Arizona anti-abortion group's speech rights were violated when the state refused to issue specialty license plates with the message "Choose Life." The court noted that Arizona's License Plate Commission had approved blander plates for other nonprofit organizations, such as associations of police and firefighters and the Wildlife Conservation Council, before turning down the Arizona Life Coalition. The ruling is applicable in California as well—in ways that DMV lawyers have been pondering—but at least one Californian doesn't think it’s a wise one.

High Praise Indeed . . .     . . . For Anthony Lewis’s new book, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate,
coming from Nat Hentoff, Lewis’s only competitor for the title (if there were such) of Contemporary Evangelist for Freedom of Speech and Press. Hentoff’s own books include

Open Meetings

Charge: District Name Secretly Decided     The San Jose Mercury News reports that a lawyer for a Vietnamese community group has accused the San Jose City Council of secretly lining up votes last fall to decide the name of a new Vietnamese business district, in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act.  The letter to Mayor Chuck Reed and the council demanded they rescind their unpopular November 20 vote to call the area "Saigon Business District."    
Litigation Figleaf for Secret Decision    The Pasadena Star News reports that when a Whittier couple asked the city for relief from the scatter of leaves and fruit from some fig trees on city property—citing a threat to their son’s delicate health—the city treated the situation as a lawsuit threat and, in closed session, decided to cut the trees down.  The unannounced chainsaw massacre was news to neighbors.

Free Press

Chief: No New Paparazzi Law Needed     The Los Angeles Times reports that L.A. Police Chief William Bratton is cool to a city councilman’s proposal for an ordinance creating a “personal safety zone” around photographer-swarmed celebrities such as Britney Spears, who recently had a 12-officer detail assigned to escort her on a hospital visit. 

“Councilman (Dennis) Zine is responding to frustration we all have with the paparazzi," Bratton said. "We already have appropriate laws within the constitutional guidelines and we intend to do that whether it is erratic driving, trespassing on private property or any action that goes beyond the constitutional rights to cover a story."

Public Information

Estimated Retrieval Cost: $30,000    Nearly four months after receiving an anonymous request for public records from a Sacramento law firm, Rancho Palos Verdes officials say they are only halfway done producing the documents and will end up spending more than expected on the project.