Transparency News 10/3/18



October 3, 2018


You can smile on VCOG when you shop on Amazon. Click here!


state & local news stories


"Bob O'Neil was unfailingly polite and unnecessarily humble."

It is with tremendous sadness that I learn of the passing of Robert "Bob" O'Neil, former president of UVA, founding director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and VCOG's first board of directors president. I always marveled at his ability at board meetings to pull together the various bits of string from the many and often meandering comments into a succinct summary that made clear not only what the options were, but often, too, what the choice should be. He was unfailingly polite and unnecessarily humble. He was good natured, interested in his colleagues' families and recent travels. He had a story for everything, but it was never to one-up the listener, only to connect. That he was brilliant was a given, and this article can tell you more about his intellectual achievements and acumen. But for now, I just want to express my sincere thanks for his guidance and his friendship. He will be missed.

 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

If you don't pay your personal property taxes, the city is going to take action. The treasurer wants to start towing vehicles. The treasurer says there are millions of dollars out there that the city's owed, and if you don't pay, they're done waiting around. Through a Freedom of Information Act Request, WDBJ7 found that the city is owed about $8.2 million dollars in personal property taxes. Soon, if people don't pay up, they're going to start towing cars.

Two Virginia Beach council members are among a group of residents challenging the city's election system, charging that it thwarts competition, favors wealth and special interests, and discourages diversity. Since the 1960s, Virginia Beach has used an unusual hybrid approach: It’s the region’s only locality in which candidates represent specific residential districts but are elected by voters from the entire city. Virginia Beach council members Jessica Abbott and John Moss want the current election system to end. They are lobbying state lawmakers to change the city charter to a ward-style system in which candidates running to represent a specific district would be chosen only by that area’s residents.
The Virginian-Pilot

The Shenandoah County Industrial Development Authority doesn’t meet regularly, but Monday’s marathon meeting made up for a bare-bones calendar. Last month during a brief, closed-session meeting, members appointed Litten and Sipe attorney Jason Ham as their attorney and bond counsel. Ham got to work right away, suggesting changes to bond applications and the IDA bylaws. Carolyn Howard,  representing consulting engineer firm Draper Aden Associates,  told IDA members about some undeveloped land they own that has road building and division issues. The lot, located along Borden Mowery Drive in the Shenandoah Industrial Park, needs to be divided into two lots, one of which has not been recorded. Members discussed how they would divide the land in the closed session portion of Monday’s meeting.
The Northern Virginia Daily


national stories of interest

The [domestic abuse] case would go into the darkest corner of the Massachusetts criminal justice system, where closed-door hearings are often held in private offices without public notice, where the outcome is up to the discretion of a single court official who may not have a law degree, and where thousands of substantiated criminal cases go to die every year. Call it our secret court. No other state in the country has anything like it. Every year, tens of thousands of cases wind up in secret court sessions — formally known as “show cause hearings” — that are presided over by court clerks and usually held for suspects who haven’t been arrested and don’t pose a flight risk or danger to others. People are generally entitled to these hearings for misdemeanors, but police can request them for felonies as well. The quality of justice behind the clerks’ closed doors can depend on where the hearing is held, who you know, or the color of your skin, according to a Spotlight Team investigation.
Boston Globe




"Call it our secret court. No other state in the country has anything like it."


editorials & columns


"When a public body publicly affirms its dedication to the principle of open government, we believe they should be honored."

Amherst County, like every locality in Central Virginia, has had a spotty record on government transparency over the years. Sometimes, its elected officials are exemplars of the principle that the people’s business should be conducted openly; however, regrettably, sometimes they try to hide as much as possible, as in the push to oust former County Administrator Rodney Taylor a decade ago. So when a public body publicly affirms its dedication to the principle of open government and sets about conducting as much of its business in the open, with the public watching, we believe they should be honored for abiding by the basic American belief of government of, by and for the people. [Choosing a replacement member after the resignation of one member] could have been a closed process, conducted behind locked doors in executive session under the guise of “personnel matters,” as so many city councils, boards of supervisors and elected school boards have done in the past in Central Virginia. But Amherst’s school trustees chose differently: They decided to do the public’s business in the open.
The News & Advance