Sunday, October 28, 2007

Regressive politics

Open meetings are essential to our republic. Allowing and encouraging discussions to go back to the cloakroom is not progress. Our new Vice Mayor, touted as the progressives candidate, is discouraging discussion during council meetings telling councilmen they should have asked those questions during committee meetings. That may make for shorter meetings but it's also less sunlight.

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

"Frank deliberation is very hard to do in public. We elect public officials to represent us," said Nashville lawyer Ogden Stokes, a former Tennessee Municipal League official and a public member of the legislative committee.

He's right if you define hard as requiring:

  • prior preparation about the subject on the agenda,
  • being willing to ask a question or two during hearings that are illuminating but could make someone (as Phil Valentine says) 'uncomfortable',
  • a backbone which enables you to stand your ground for your constituents,
  • the ability to be willing to listen to opposing opinions with an open mind and, if necessary, publicly state you've changed your mind and why.

"When this law was passed, it was aimed at preventing the old pre-meetings. When it passed, we (TML) thought it applied to quorums."

Oops. Now you know. What you 'think' matters less than what the law says. It's amazing how often law writers write badly worded laws.

The TML, Tennessee School Boards Association, the association of county governments and others have presented wish lists for new exemptions to the meetings and records laws -- including closed school board meetings on job performance of the schools superintendent and other "sensitive issues."
To include our own Metro Nashville School Board. There may be some issues that are very sensitive (such as the testimony of a young child about abuse) but usually these sensitive issues are more about not having a record that can referred to later when election time or contract negotiations come around.

The legislative panel also recommended personal fines of up to $1,000 or half of the monthly salary, whichever is less, for officials who violate the law. Current law contains no such penalties.

Shouldn't this be whichever is greater instead?
You have a few people like (state Rep.) Ulysses Jones [D-Memphis] who is leading the charge to weaken these laws but you also have a lot of legislators who are being silent when they should be standing up and representing the people who elected them," [Volunteer leader of Tennessee Tax Revolt Ben] Cunningham said.
Cunningham is exactly right. Silence is complicity. They've only got themselves to blame. Legislators didn't clean up their own house and so now they have the uncomfortable task of having to deal with others as the cleaning is done for them.

1 comment:

Nashteach said...

"Our new Vice Mayor, touted as the progressives candidate"

Oh, I think that depends on your perspective. Sure, people interested in gay rights and other social issues perceived Neighbors as less conservative, but progressives who look more to economic issues- specifically neighborhoods versus business development- had strong arguments as to why Tucker was more progressive. She’d be more willing to stand up to the little guy if developers came knocking, especially in neighborhoods with less political clout. Educators saw them both as progressive on their issues, slightly tilting to Tucker because she was an educator and because she, unlike many council members, was willing to stand up to Garcia when he asked for money that was intended for Central Office and not the classroom. Many people thought Neighbors would just be more effective at running meetings (Tucker could get “off track” some during meetings). Anyway, why simple terms like “progressive” or “liberal” and “conservative” are not sufficient to give a clear picture of a candidate.

I do agree that weakening the open meetings practices is regressive and not in the public interest.