Transparency News 3/4/14

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
State and Local Stories


Portsmouth city officials have known for some time that their televised City Council meetings have a following. When the council decided to stop airing the public comment portion of the meetings early last year, the outcry was so swift that the council reversed its decision. The popularity of televised council meetings in Portsmouth appears to stem largely from two factors: The city's elderly population is especially devoted to watching, city staffers say. And the meetings in Portsmouth are often lively and animated enough to keep people glued to the set, residents say. "There's always something going on," Portsmouth community activist Joe Wright said. "It's like watching a suspense movie. It's going to erupt sooner or later."

One Virginia lawmaker is on a quest, one that unites members of both parties in irritation. “I’m fighting a lonely and largely losing battle,” said Sen. J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax City). “I don’t know if anyone else shares this obsession. It might only be me.” A lawyer and onetime aspiring novelist, Petersen has made it his mission to edit other people’s bills. “Petersen’s here to take out a period and add a semicolon,” Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-Louisa) joked when his colleague walked in last week. “I get frustrated when laws and statutes are written in an obscure way, and it gets very difficult as a practicing attorney to figure out what the intent was, or what it means,” Petersen said. “So one of my goals is to simplify the law, so people can actually read it.”
Washington Post

The attorney for Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) Friday filed a subpoena for the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of the ongoing case in which a group of Sterling residents is seeking to oust him from office. According to a statement issued by Delgaudio, attorney Charles King said the subpoena would be served to the SPLC, a nonprofit civil rights organization located in Montgomery, AL, later this week. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Delgaudio's private business, Public Advocate of the United States, a hate group because of its opposition to gay rights. The subpoena seeks all the documents the Southern Poverty Law Center has on Delgaudio and Public Advocate that led to the hate group designation, including "the criteria, research and decision process used..."
Leesburg Today

The centennial year of the University of Richmond’s student newspaper will be marked by its elimination.  The Collegian will be an online-only news source starting in March. The decision came after about a year of mulling over how to operate more efficiently, outgoing Editor in Chief Marina Askari says. “This is the best way to move forward,” Askari says. “A lot of newsrooms are making this transition.”
Style Weekly

National Stories

The Michigan House will soon consider bills that exempt firearm records from the Freedom of Information Act. The bills also set up a method for law enforcement to obtain the records if it's needed for investigation purposes, although the bill says they would have to detail  "reasonable suspicion" before they could gain access.
Wood Radio

The Hawaii judge who closed the courtroom multiple times during the last day of a high-profile murder trial has unsealed the transcripts from that proceeding in response to a motion by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now. The transcript reveals discussions that Judge Karen Ahn of the first circuit in Hawaii had with the attorneys, the jury foreman and a juror after that juror was seen shaking hands with a friend of the victim’s family, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported. Ahn rejected defense attempts to replace that juror.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday acknowledged that a spectator’s outburst during an oral argument Feb. 26 was “redacted” from the audio posted on the court’s web site late last week. "The comments were not transcribed by the court reporter, who is responsible for transcribing and creating an official record of oral arguments (justices’ questions, statements, and counsels’ comments)," court public information officer Kathy Arberg said in a statement. "The audio was redacted to reflect the official proceedings." The court reporter is an employee of Alderson Reporting Service, Arberg added. The protester, Noah Newkirk, interrupted arguments in a patent case to urge the justices to overturn their Citizens United ruling in 2010. "Money is not speech!" Newkirk said, among other things, before being removed from the court by police. He was charged with violating a federal law barring harangues within the Supreme Court building.
National Law Journal


DEAR General Assembly: It’s time to give up district-drawing duties. We know it’s hard. You’ve held on to redistricting powers for many years. But it’s time to let them go. Every 10 years, after the census, state legislators haul out their maps and their voter rolls and their databases and they redraw the lines for House of Delegates, state Senate and congressional districts. Redistricting is meant to keep the districts of equal size. But it is the most partisan thing the General Assembly engages in. Both parties, when in power, draw districts that will benefit their own side. Carefully, the majority party’s map architect will slice off a few conservative voters here, a few liberals there. He’ll delicately carve around the homes of the other party’s incumbents, hoping to force a few electoral cage matches. He’ll do it all in the ostensible name of communities of interest and compactness and contiguity.
Free Lance-Star