Transparency News 2/6/20



February 6, 2020

There was no issue of Access News yesterday (Wednesday).



state & local news stories



Early last night, the bill to bring the Office of Executive Secretary died in the House Courts of Justice Committee. It was one of the odder discussions of a bill that I've witnessed, with multiple motions to continue to study the issue in 2021, disagreements over whether to allow a representative from the OES to address the committee and, finally, a motion to advance the bill, which resulted in an 11-11 tie (tie votes mean a motion of any kind fails).

I'm disappointed, of course, but I am also glad to see that the issue was front and center to a whole room full of people, and that half of the legislators on that committee agreed with VCOG that the court's administrative arm should use FOIA when responding to requests for records. After the tie vote, Del. Charniele Herring, chair of the committee, said she would write a letter advising further study, and told the OES representative, "I do hope that you're hearing the concerns and that we can get to a place."

You can watch the discussion here: 
Click on Courts of Justice, Feb. 5, in the archives and advance to the 6:40:13 mark. It's a 20-minute discussion.

And many thanks to Delegates Mullin and Miyares for carrying the bill and defending it so strongly.

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There were not enough seats to accommodate the citizens who showed up at Town Council's Monday work session to hear Interim Town Manager Matt Tederick's proposed budget. That proposal includes a half-cent real estate tax decrease and the termination of nine employees - five full-time and four part-time. Before the budget presentation began, Mayor Eugene Tewalt said although he was glad to see a sizable crowd, the public’s input is not permitted during work sessions. He added that citizens are welcome to attend the council’s regular meeting next week to share their opinions.
The Northern Virginia Daily

The Lynchburg Police Department on Tuesday released the results of three internal investigations into officer-involved shootings during the past three years. Chief Ryan Zuidema met with members of the media to discuss those results and play footage from one of the shootings. For all three, he said LPD found its officers acted within policy — separate investigations reviewed by different commonwealth’s attorneys determined the officers’ use of force was justified. Internal investigations into two of the officer-involved shootings were completed at the end of last year, he said, and compiling the report for presentation to the public takes additional time. Last week, Zuidema stood in the same place for a news conference on another shooting where officers were found to have violated unspecified department policies. Zuidema released dashboard camera and body-worn camera footage.
The News & Advance

stories of national interest

Internal emails show employees at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Weather Service (NWS) were upset and frustrated after President Trump held up a map in the White House that showed an altered path for Hurricane Dorian sketched out with a black marker. Emails obtained by The Hill and other news outlets through a Freedom of Information Act request show some scientists were flabbergasted at the president's actions in the so-called Sharpiegate controversy, and that they worried about other steps that might be taken. The emails also criticized the NOAA over a statement it issued that sided with the president over the NWS, which had said Trump's map incorrectly suggested that Alabama was in the path of the hurricane.
The Hill





editorials & columns

"The hours are long and the pay sucks, but, on the other hand, everyone hates you."

AS passionate defenders of the First Amendment right of free speech, it may seem puzzling that we also applaud the House Education Committee for amending a bill granting all student journalists in Virginia the same legal protections that professional scribes enjoy to apply only to college students. The revised bill gives college journalists “the right to exercise freedom of speech and the press in school-sponsored student media, including determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the governing board of the institution, supported through the use of campus facilities, or produced in conjunction with a course in which the student is enrolled.” But the committee, which voted 18–1 to pass the amended version of the bill (HB 36) patroned by Del. Chris Hurst, D–Montgomery, did the right thing by excluding student journalists in middle and high school. That said, it is incumbent on school administrators not to use their veto power to prevent student journalists in middle and high school from reporting on what’s really going on, even if it’s embarrassing to the school’s principal or other public officials.
The Free Lance-Star

The General Assembly, the oldest elected representative body in North America, is a repository of long-held traditions and customs, as one would expect of any institution in the Old Dominion. Humor, sometimes ribald humor, is a tradition in the House of Delegates, more so than in the more staid state Senate. Humor eases tensions, especially in partisan times, and gentle joking and kidding can help legislators build relationships that cross the aisle and benefit the commonwealth and their own constituents. But there are times when what masquerades as “humor” is really hyper-partisan political warfare that achieves nothing except increasing ill feelings.
The News & Advance

If you’ve ever worked in journalism or had the misfortune of listening to a reporter complain about it, you’ve probably heard a version of this adage: The hours are long and the pay sucks, but, on the other hand, everyone hates you. That’s why it’s probably too much to expect mass apprehension about what’s happening to Virginia’s newspapers, from The Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot in Hampton Roads to the titles across the state once owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which announced last week it was selling them to an Iowa-based newspaper company called Lee Enterprises. (Not to mention smaller papers that have shuffled off this mortal coil in the past few years). But many of us who work in Virginia media have felt the shudders reverberate through the state’s news ecosystem with each announcement of downsizing or layoffs at the state’s biggest publications, newspaper building sales in Norfolk and Richmond and last week’s news that 10 papers from Bristol to Culpeper and lots of places in between will change hands. And no matter your political persuasion or personal position on the press, if you care about what happens at your local government, school board, police department or sheriff’s office, among other institutions, it should also worry you.
Robert Zullo, Virginia Mercury