Transparency News 6/21/13


Friday, June 21, 2013

State and Local Stories  

The University of Virginia has named David W. Martel chief communications officer. Martel is currently director of media communications at the University of Connecticut. He has more than 20 years of experience in strategic communication, media relations, marketing and branding, UVa officials said.
Daily Progress

The $50 million lawsuit filed by the Dulles-based telecommunications firm OpenBand in October after the Board of Supervisors denied its application for a new Open Video Service franchise was thrown out today in Loudoun County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleging "unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious" actions was filed against the Board of Supervisors, Supervisors Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run) as individuals, the Lansdowne on the Potomac and Southern Walk at Broadlands homeowners' associations and all members of their boards.
Leesburg Today

Manassas City Council member Mark D. Wolfe (R) is the unpaid executive director of the Manassas Ballet Theatre, and his wife is the group’s paid artistic director. This week, he voted to give the organization $23,000 of city money. The funding came as part of a $142,500 package the council agreed to direct to arts groups on a 4 to 2 vote. If not for Wolfe’s support, the measure would have failed, because city rules require four votes to allocate money. Since Monday’s vote, council member Marc Aveni (R) and Mayor Harry “Hal” Parrish II (R) have sought an opinion from a city attorney about whether Wolfe violated any state conflict-of-interest laws. City Attorney Michael Vanderpool did not return calls for comment.
Washington Post

National Stories

After being sued under Freedom of Information (FOIA) law, the State Department released its first photos Thursday showing the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on Benghazi. According to the watchdog group Judicial Watch, which filed the lawsuit against the government, the seven photos "seem to depict portions of the so-called 'Special Mission Compound' in Benghazi, including: what appears to be a burned and ransacked building; at least two burned vehicles; and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans."
CBS News

The National Security Agency has been secretly granted legal authority to operate a massive domestic eavesdropping system that vacuums up Americans' phone calls and Internet communications, newly leaked documents show. A pair of classified government documents (No. 1 and No. 2) signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and posted by the Guardian on Thursday show that NSA analysts are able to listen to Americans' intercepted phone calls without asking a judge for a warrant first.

Even as the freshly minted Obama administration was pledging a "new era of open government" in 2009, officials were quietly adding new rules that had the potential to slow down public requests for documents.  Those rules, detailed in memos reviewed by, could even trip up present-day efforts to dig into the IRS' practice of targeting conservative groups. The rules detailed in the memos largely emanated from the Treasury Department and, specifically, the IRS.
Fox News

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona on Tuesday unveiled a new campaign and smartphone app focused on documenting people’s stories of police racial profiling. The campaign, called United Against 1070, will use a new smartphone application, online forms, an interactive map and a telephone hotline to catalog and track cases where people believed they were racially profiled by officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and other departments.
Arizona Republic

Gov. Jerry Brown indicated that he would support protecting public access to government records in a constitutional amendment to be voted on next fall, but still supports temporarily weakening the law that ensures public access to official documents. Brown’s comments, which came in a statement released Wednesday evening, capped a wild day at the state Capitol, which had lawmakers scrambling to cope with the fallout of last week’s vote to water down the law.  At Brown’s urging, both houses approved a measure making local compliance with part of the state’s public records laws optional.
Los Angeles Times


Daily Press: Recently the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) was the target of criticism by Hampton Roads legislators arising out of lobbying efforts on its behalf. Current VPA board members, all but one of whom were newly appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2011, have said they were unaware of any such activities, but in fact lobbying has been going on for several years. Ignorance is not the VPA's best argument. As policymakers, board members should have known of the organization's involvement in legislative advocacy. The more persuasive defense is that the VPA has not engaged in lobbying directly, but through a two-layer arrangement of contractors. It's a technical distinction, to be sure. The real problem here is not with the lobbying per se — all of Virginia's ports competitors do it — it's with our law.

Michael Paul Williams, Times-Dispatch: Politics isn’t transcendental meditation. Factions will disagree. When managed, these tensions can be healthy. Board members don’t have to like one another. But business should never get this personal. Unfortunately, the Richmond School Board has gone there before. After then-Mayor L. Douglas Wilder gave the School Board a verbal beatdown in May 2006, then-School Board Chairman David L. Ballard told the media: “If I met with the mayor now, I’d have to kill him.” When a board member — never mind a woman — threatens to “whup” another member, it confirms in some minds the worst suspicions about our city and its school district. We worry about reality shows like “Babymamas,” which airs Monday nights on Comcast Public Access channel 95 and Verizon channel 36. We should fear our real politics.

Times-Dispatch: About the only good thing to come out of the quinquennial farm bill is the spate of items exposing just how awful U.S. farm policy is. For instance, recent coverage has reminded the public that. . . While you can learn who gets direct payments from the federal government’s farm programs, you can’t learn who gets subsidies to buy crop insurance – because Congress forbids the Agriculture Department to divulge such data. Those subsidies underwrite two-thirds of the cost of agriculture insurance.

Peter Orszag, Herald Courier: In the midst of new revelations about federal government surveillance, cities are increasing their own monitoring programs: using traffic cameras to fight speeding. The result is that cities have ever more information about how and where we drive. The issue is what cities should do with all that data. That question is anything but hypothetical: At the Clinton Global Initiative America gathering last week in Chicago, the central concern of the infrastructure task force was thedesire for innovative revenue streams, possibly including traffic camera data, to pay for much-needed new projects. Google's recently announced $1.1 billion acquisition of Waze, a traffic application, adds a new twist to the debate, by giving us a hint of just how valuable such data might be.