Monday, October 29, 2007

October 28, 2007 Local Government Officials Want To Gut Sunshine Laws

A state legislative study subcommittee has decided to recommend that political backroom deal-making and secret meetings of local legislative officials be made legal.

If the full committee and later the General Assembly adopts the subcommittee proposal, local public meetings will be a sham, a shame, and nothing more than a "public" vote/rubber stamp of whatever the local officials have already decided during their private deliberations and secret dealmaking.

The "Open Meetings" subcommittee wants to allow groups of county commissioners, groups of city council members, and groups of school board members to meet in secret (or with the rich and powerful) to deliberate and decide public issues---just as long as the secret meeting involves less than a quorum of the members of the whole body.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a good editorial 'Sun' burn sends officials scurrying.

The Tennessean offers its opinion Bolster, don't soften, open meetings law.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal recalls the history behind Tennessee's Open Meetings Act and labels as "hogwash" Memphis state representative Ulysses Jones' public excuse for wanting to allow secret meetings. The C-A has another biting editorial on Redefining 'open' meetings.

If the nightmarish proposal of the subcommittee is adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly, local government officials will be ecstatic and the public will be left in the dark!

You can bet that local government officials will happily revert to the "good old days" when the good old boys and girls had the meeting before the meeting without the pesky public or press (newspaper, radio, TV) around to ask questions.

The subcommittee's proposal is a real step backward for open government. It will dash whatever hope and possibility existed for accountable and ethical local government.

The proposal will give county commissioners, city council members, and school boards state approval to make decisions on both routine and controversial issues in "secret" small group meetings and then come out in "public" only when it's time to vote.

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