Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 | The rose is for pushing government agencies to operate with transparency. Your relentless pursuit of public documents from agencies like Southeastern Economic Development Corp. and the county of San Diego highlights the most fundamental question facing our elected officials and government leaders: Who owns the government? President Lincoln’s answer, “of the people, by the people, for the people,” has been steadily eroded by stifling layers of government secrecy. Confidentiality to protect personal information or litigation needs is one thing, but willfully refusing to release public information to its owners, the public, merely because it is embarrassing is an attack on the foundation of democracy itself. I believe the time has come for criminal penalties for public officials who deliberately minimize or delay the release of public information, or who hide behind attorney client privilege when no litigation strategy is at risk.
Now for your thorn. Today, a prominently featured blog post reports that several members of the City Council did not violate the Brown Act. Not that they were accused in any meaningful way by a prosecutor or informed citizen, but just by several readers who don’t understand our open meeting laws. While I appreciate that if several readers ask the same question an answer is appropriate, featuring the “Council members did not break law” angle twice on the homepage can only plant a seed of doubt in the public’s mind. These questions should have been succinctly answered with a much lower profile lest you encourage more of this ready-fire-aim type of public discourse.
As illustrated by your long record of frustration in utilizing the Public Records Act, there are more than enough examples of actual government malfeasance to write about. Please keep up the good work!