Transparency News 3/9/18

March 9, 2018
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state & local news stories
Check out VCOG's lineup of free events to celebrate Sunshine Week
March 11-17
Civic leaders in town after town along the 600-mile route of a proposed natural gas project have posed for similar photographs, smiling and accepting poster-sized checks from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Dominion Energy says it’s being a good neighbor by handing out $2 million in grants of around $5,000 to $10,000 in communities affected by its joint venture with fellow energy giants Duke Energy and Southern Co. But critics say Dominion is buying support on the cheap to outflank opponents of the project, which would carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia into Virginia, North Carolina and potentially farther south at a cost that’s swelling to as much as $6.5 billion. Documents obtained by The Associated Press as well as interviews with company officials, supporters and opponents show the considerable lengths Dominion has gone to as it builds support for its largest capital project. The company says its grant program is charity, and not part of what it calls its largest outreach program in Dominion history.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office late Thursday announced it will hold a press conference Friday morning regarding an “officer-involved” shooting Thursday in Salem Fields. Sheriff’s Lt. C.A. Carey would not confirm reports that the shooting was a fatal one and would not discuss why police were in the area, what led to the shooting or who was shot. The shooting victim was not a member of law-enforcement. “We’re not going to discuss any of that until tomorrow,” Carey said.
The Free Lance-Star
national stories of interest
In news that will surely be of interest to the civic tech and open data crowds, the U.S. Justice Department has launched a new site, redesigning the online portal through which citizens can request information under the Freedom of Information Act. Transparency groups have praised the redesign, which was mandated by Congress in 2016, describing it as a significant improvement over the previous The Sunlight Foundation, an open data advocacy group, noted that while the new version of the site won’t fix all of the nation’s transparency law issues, it is a “modern, responsive website based upon open standards and open source frameworks.”

In a newly released recording from the day of a deadly Florida school shooting, the parents of a 17-year-old girl tell a 911 dispatcher their daughter is texting from a classroom where the door's glass was shot out. Later, the student texts that police have arrived. After getting the rest of the message, the mother raises her voice, "Three shot in her room. Oh my God. Oh my God." As a gun-control bill sits on the governor's desk, the Broward County Sheriff's Office released 12 minutes of radio transmissions from its deputies and a neighboring police agency highlighting the chaos during the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. That material also included 10 of the 81 recordings of frantic calls by students and parents to a 911 center.
The Virginian-Pilot
PopUplogoMarch 16, 2018
Virginia Credit Union House
editorials & columns
quote_3.jpg"Transparency is as big an issue as ever — bigger, really — and our state’s Freedom of Information Act needs all the help it can get."
Several years ago, the Daily Press Editorial Board used to give out a monthly Open Door Award to someone — usually a public official or an organization — who displayed a dedication to transparency and public access. We ended the practice in 2014, but this feels like as good a time as any to bring it back. Transparency is as big an issue as ever — bigger, really — and our state’s Freedom of Information Act needs all the help it can get. So we will once again be looking for candidates, and we will honor a recipient in this space on the final Friday of each month. As we bring back the monthly Open Door Award, we are looking to recognize and commend those people and organizations who believe that the public should have access to public information — and who work to make it so. Reader recommendations are always welcome.
Daily Press 

HEARING President Donald Trump talk about wanting to change libel laws in the United States reminds me of the saying I, and probably most young kids, are told while growing up: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” If President Trump had his way, a change in libel laws might look like this: If you don’t have anything nice to say about the president, his administration or his companies, you won’t be publishing anything at all. The problem is that this is censorship. More importantly, that is not what this country was founded on. Instead, our laws that protect free speech and a free press do the opposite. They allow for opinions to be shared and for criticism of the government and questioning of public leaders to be aired, including the president of the United States.
Lynn Walsh, The Free Lance-Star