government transparency

Richard Burr's staff block reporter from econ development meeting

But she was offered a sandwich as a consolation prize:

Of course, when a U.S. senator comes to town, you want to hear from him. And since Burr’s office had sent out his schedule in a “media advisory,” we at the Post figured that wouldn’t be a problem. We were wrong.

When a Post reporter arrived just before the luncheon was about to start, she was met by Robert Van Geons, director of RowanWorks, the local EDC. “Who invited you?” Van Geons asked the reporter. Her editor, she replied.

Van Geons informed the reporter this was a private event and she couldn’t come in, a decision he apparently confirmed with Burr’s people. She was, however, welcome to take some photos beforehand and have a sandwich before leaving. No thanks, the reporter said.

I'm sure Burr's office will try to spin this as simply a "misunderstanding" by a young staffer, just as I'm sure everybody will forget when the Teflon Senator comes up for re-election. But this kind of exclusivity and dodging public scrutiny is sickening.

Sunshine Week spotlight: NC charter schools lag in compliance

Once the public money flows, so should the information:

Charter school boards, unlike their school-district counterparts, are not elected. They begin as self-selected groups of like-minded people with a vision for a school. First they must form a nonprofit group to apply for the charter; during the planning stage – which often takes more than a year – they are not public bodies.

That changes when the N.C. Board of Education awards a charter, which entitles the board to get state, local and federal money for education. With that money comes public obligations, from holding open meetings to reporting academic data.

Old habits die hard, which is why these boards should operate as transparently as possible, even before the taxpayer dollars kick in. Getting feedback from parents and other members of the public during the planning stage could be crucial in the survivability of the school itself; an "idea" only becomes a "good idea" after it's been picked apart and put back together again. Those who would shield their ideas from exposure are merely exposing their lack of confidence. And their lack of skills, too:

Government transparency? Pay to play!

As we know, Deputy Assistant Guvnor Pat McCrory promised repeatedly that he would ensure government transparency and then (SURPRISE!) broke his promises.

Lately his administration has been charging exorbitant fees to fulfill public records requests, and Attorney General Roy Cooper advised Pay to Play Pat that that's not consistent with the law.

The attorney general called on the McCrory administration to reconsider the “special service charge” that some agencies impose on requests that take more than 30 minutes to find, review and copy records. ... At least one agency charges $51.47 an hour.

What happened next? Take a guess:

W/S Journal unloads on NC GOP's "immunity" claim

The people have a right to know:

This isn’t a question of legislative immunity. It’s a matter of open government.

These 13 legislators assume a dangerous power for themselves. In effect, they contend that they can change laws that go to our most cherished constitutional rights – in this case, the right to vote – and yet they can’t be questioned about it during a judicial hearing.

Such a system isn’t democratic. To the contrary, it smacks of a conceit and arrogance more associated with totalitarian states. The federal court must open those records so North Carolinians can see what the legislators are trying to hide.

I suspect closely behind that arrogance lurks fear, the fear their "intent" will be revealed. Republicans have been able to float the "showing an ID is only common sense" balloon successfully for quite some time. But when that balloon pops, and people realize this was all just another political move, and an unconstitutional move at that, no amount of gerrymandering will protect them from the wrath of voters.

Watauga GOP elections board rewrites history

We've always been at war with Eastasia:

Wide sections of a first draft of minutes for a contentious meeting on Aug. 12 of the Watauga County Elections Board were erased at the request of the board chairman, increasing concerns among some critics here about what in their view is an erosion of transparency. A third, revised version of the meeting minutes was approved 2-1 on Tuesday, with Chairman Luke Eggers and Secretary Bill Aceto in favor and the third member, Kathleen Campbell, opposing.

This is a blatant effort to purge information from the official record, and there is never a good reason for doing that. And the fact that some of the information exposes direct manipulation from the local GOP is evidence the Board is concerned about the fallout from such interference:

Sunshine Day March 11

Via e-mail from our friends at NC's Open Government Coalition:

Please join us for Sunshine Day from noon to 4 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the McKimmon Center on the N.C. State University campus. Speakers will include veteran journalists from North Carolina and more than a dozen experts and advocates for open government, including our keynote speaker Lucy Dalglish, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. We encourage citizens, journalists, government employees, librarians, lawyers, public officials, anyone and everyone to attend.

I don't have to tell anyone reading this what's at stake, now more than ever. The NC GOP knows that most of their policy efforts aid a handful of the wealthy while punishing the vast majority of our citizenry. And they will try to conceal that from the public at-large whenever possible. We can't allow that to happen.

Reporters barred from gun show

I guess if you want to know what's going on, you'll have to go yourself:

The Sun Journal was not allowed inside the show despite the fact that Craven County Sheriff’s Office personnel were issuing gun permits at a table lined with those applying, like Blake Taylor of New Bern, who said he was getting a hand gun permit.

So much for "open government". Public servants should not be discharging their (taxpayer-funded) duties in a private environment where the proprieter can bar the press from observing. Allowing one without the other is a clear breach of the public's trust and needs, if not the actual letter of the law.

State, Raleigh sign lease for Dix campus; what's next?

State, Raleigh sign lease for Dix campus
Story from WRAL.com.

I have yet to see the lease signed today by Governor Perdue on behalf of the state of North Carolina. I hope to see it soon to see which party, the state or the city, is responsible for environmental liability and clean up. I raised this issue to members of the Council of State and the Governor, but never received acknowledgment of my questions or the courtesy of a reply to my emails.

The pledge by Greg Poole, leader of the group which calls itself Dix Visionaries, to raise $3 million raises some questions on openness and transparency:

Is there a budget for the master plan? Will the group be inclusive, when appointing the leaders of the planning group? Will Gregory Poole fully commit to funding the master plan privately? Will he make the donors public?

Myers Park Pat now endorses fishing expeditions

McCrory preaches what he doesn't practice:

"We're going to have ethical government and transparent government, which we also have not had in the Easley and Perdue administrations. That's the two most important parts, because if you're not willing to make the tough decisions and if you aren't ethical, then the trust of the people will not be there."

And yet, when legitimate questions arose about McCrory's Mayoral dealings with his other employer (Duke Energy) and BofA, here's what he had to say about that public records request:

On publishing and noticing

The town crier is about to be muffled:

House Bill 472 would repeal the requirement that local governments publish public notices where people are most likely to notice them – in a newspaper of general circulation. Instead, governments could comply with the law by posting notices on their own websites, and nowhere else.

Take it from somebody who beat his head against the wall trying to get exposure for a published novel, just posting it on your website will accomplish nothing.

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