Transparency News, 6/23/21


June 23, 2021
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state & local news stories

"The crowd formed a line to continue with an informal public comment."
After an unruly public comment session was halted by the School Board Tuesday night, chaos and a brawl ensued between members of the public, and Loudoun deputies were called to clear the room leading to two arrests. Over 300 people packed the board room, many of them objecting to proposed Policy 8040, which protects the rights of transgender students. The board was scheduled discuss the policy, which is required by state law, later in the meeting in anticipation of a vote on Aug. 10. The crowd repeatedly was warned by board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan not to interrupt with chants and applause. Within five minutes of beginning public comment, she called a five minute recess because of a crowd disruption. After public comment resumed, former state Senator Dick Black delivered an address to the board, voicing his disgust with the past years’ events. The crowd erupted into loud applause, and Atoosa Reeser (Algonkian) made a motion to end public comment. The board unanimously approved the motion. The crowd was incensed as board members went into recess, and began to chant “shame on you.” The crowd formed a line to continue with an informal public comment.

Although complaints about foul-smelling air pollution in the Twin City (Bristol) seem to be as abundant as ever, few residents showed up to a meeting Tuesday about the landfill at the center of the crisis — and those who came received few updates. A crowdsourcing app called Smell My City, which residents can use to record the details of their experiences, shows 832 entries between Jan. 16 — the first day it was used in the area — and April 4, roughly a month after the first round of landfill repairs finished. Compared to all that online activity, the in-person participation at a public meeting about the landfill late Tuesday afternoon was striking: Only six or seven residents showed up to City Hall for the meeting, which began just before the City Council meeting convened.
Bristol Herald Courier

Over 4,600 registered voters in Virginia’s 18th Senate District signed a petition to recall Sen. Louise Lucas, accusing her of misusing her role as an elected official during a protest last June in Portsmouth. Petitioners claim the senator’s actions on June 10, 2020, “escalated the aggression of the protesters” after Lucas asked Portsmouth police to refrain from arresting demonstrators and told the crowd no one would be arrested. The document said Lucas allegedly prevented officers from performing their “sworn duty to the community to preserve property and life.”
The Virginian-Pilot


editorials & opinion
"We now have a remarkable opportunity to not only uphold but to also optimize accessibility, making remote participation a curb cut 2.0 for the modern day and age."
For those entities that are subject to the [Massachusetts] open meetings law, several bills filed this year — and already given their remote hearing — would keep the best of what Massachusetts residents have come to expect of their other political entities, updating the law to require that certain public bodies continue to provide “adequate, alternative means of public access” and “effective remote access” to meetings long after the state of emergency is lifted. It would also require a way to provide remote “active, real-time participation by members of the public” if that is already a requirement of in-person sessions. Mindful of the benefits of maintaining an in-person presence, too, the proposed new law would also require that “all meetings of a public body shall be open to the public in a public place that is open and physically accessible to the public, . .” making it clear that once life has returned to normal, so must the business of doing the people’s business in person and in public. “Last year saw the majority of buildings and venues becoming inaccessible to society at large — and suddenly there was this universal understanding of what inaccessibility meant, whether in the context of a disability or a raging global pandemic,” said Dianna Hu, chairperson of the Boston Center for Independent Living in a statement. “Remote participation is the latest manifestation of universal design — alongside curb cuts, elevators, closed captioning, audiobooks, and other accessibility features that expanded to universal popularity. We now have a remarkable opportunity to not only uphold but to also optimize accessibility, making remote participation a curb cut 2.0 for the modern day and age.”
The Boston Globe