Transparency News 10/16/18



October 16, 2018


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state & local news stories


“I would not have to be a nuisance if everyone was equally committed to having light shine on our work. I would not have to be obnoxious if answers were freely given.”

Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney provided a detailed report of data on the city’s stop-and-frisk policy Monday, less than two weeks after she said it would be unavailable until it could be extracted from a new software system. Brackney gave a presentation to the City Council on Monday that wasn’t listed on the meeting agenda and occurred while Interim City Manager Mike Murphy discussed questions raised in public comment at the council’s previous meeting. Brackney provided a copy of the presentation to the media on Monday, but after The Daily Progress’ press deadline. When Murphy brought Brackney forward to give the presentation, several audience members were visibly angry and some shouted because the data weren’t available before the meeting. Councilor Kathy Galvin said the information should be included with agenda items when it’s next presented.
The Daily Progress

Saying he had “no confidence” of receiving a fair hearing, Bristol Virginia City Councilman Doug Fleenor submitted his resignation Monday afternoon — hours before his fellow council members were expected to remove him. Fleenor’s attorney, Michael Bragg, issued a news release and a one-paragraph resignation letter just before 3 p.m. in advance of the 6 p.m. called meeting. Last week, a judge upheld council’s authority to remove one of its own elected members. The council did meet, going into closed session for 45 minutes, before emerging to table action on the hearing and schedule a called session at 8:30 a.m. today to consider the resignation. Council couldn’t act on it Monday because the agenda of a called meeting can’t be amended. “One of my primary goals as Council Member was to bring sunshine into City Government,” Fleenor said in the statement. “I would not have to be a nuisance if everyone was equally committed to having light shine on our work. I would not have to be obnoxious if answers were freely given.”
Bristol Herald Courier
(NOTE: It is not a FOIA requirement that action can't be taken on something that wasn't on the agenda, though VCOG has in the past suggested that FOIA be amended in such a way.)

All three (Staunton-area) local school districts reported zero-use of restraint or seclusion in dealing with students in crisis over the last five years, as previously reported in The News Leader.  The number does not tell the whole story, however. There's a hidden partner in the school districts' collective success.  When a crisis cannot be de-escalated and a child is a danger to themselves or others, the schools call the police.  And the police come. Local law enforcement answered 157 calls for children in crisis in public schools in the last five years, according to data The News Leader compiled from Staunton and Waynesboro police departments and the Augusta County Sheriffs Office. These numbers do not include police visits for pranks, fire alarms, or drug searches. 
News Leader

Today, white students make up 40 percent of Charlottesville’s enrollment, and African Americans about a third. But white children are about four times as likely to be in Charlottesville’s gifted program, while black students are more than four times as likely to be held back a grade and almost five times as likely to be suspended out of school, according to a ProPublica/New York Times examination of newly available district and federal data. (Look up your school, district, or state in ProPublica’s interactive database.)

It took nearly a dozen meetings, four months and the careful deliberation of professors and administrators. George Mason University’s review of philanthropic giving sought to evaluate whether gifts to the public institution came with the taint of influence — and what could be done to ensure that future donations arrive with no strings attached. Now that the investigation is complete — after finding no “egregious practices,” a committee recommended increasing faculty involvement and encouraging transparency — the school confronts complex questions. How will it work to implement the panel’s recommendations? And can Mason, so recently besieged with concerns about academic integrity, position itself as a model for other institutions?
The Washington Post

Members of the board that oversees Reagan National and Dulles International airports, as well as the multibillion-dollar Silver Line rail project, remain largely grounded despite a change in policy nearly two years ago that encouraged them to travel more. According to documents obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, board members spent roughly $17,000 last year, a year after members voted to loosen travel guidelines. Comparatively, in 2015, the year before the rule change, board members spent $32,000 on travel and other expenses. The figures show how dramatically behavior has shifted on the 17-member board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), once known for lavish trips and dinners that included lobster tails, seared foie gras and expensive bottles of wine.
The Washington Post


editorials & columns


One of the things that impressed me when I listened to a recent presentation by Harvard Kennedy School Innovations Award finalist José Cisneros was the San Francisco's treasurer's ability to focus on the problem first, not the data. He seemed to have avoided the data distraction problem that more and more frequently afflicts smart-city governance. Even the most competent, tech-savvy civil servant is susceptible to data distraction, when one examines data for better managing an existing process without first clearly identifying the problem to be solved and whether the existing approach needs to be re-thought entirely.
Stephen Goldsmith, Governing