Transparency News, 7/30/21


July 30, 2021
follow us on TwitterFacebook & Instagram


state & local news stories

The former chief of the Petersburg force. A police captain from New Jersey. Portsmouth’s current assistant chief. Three finalists vying to become the city’s next police chief each made their pitch to the public Thursday evening, explaining how they’d tackle the job. The city said this month there were four candidates, but only three participated in the public forum. The fourth person withdrew their candidacy because of a death in the family, said Barbara Hamm Lee, who moderated the event and is producer and host of the radio program “Another View.” The roughly 100 people who showed up in person to hear from the candidates were the first to learn who they were, since the city said it wouldn’t name them until the community forum.
The Virginian-Pilot

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors heard details concerning the development of zoning ordinances on Monday night, which would be a first for Carroll County. Zoning is being considered in response to a proposal for the former training center to be used as a drug rehab facility. Citizens and county officials have opposed the proposal from Acadia Healthcare, owners of The Life Center of Galax, and have questioned whether the state is following proper procedures in selling the property. At the July 12 meeting, Sulphur Springs District Supervisor Rex Hill called for a motion. “Our council has filed a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request, and I would also ask that [a letter be sent] to the office of the state inspector general to look into how this was conducted, how it originated, and any details we can find out.” County Attorney Stephen Durbin of the Sands-Anderson Law Firm addressed the board with the findings of the FOIA request, and offered other information for consideration surrounding both benefits and challenges of zoning. “To follow up, I did submit a FOIA request and the response I got back was that the land sale of the training center property has not been finalized, therefore the contract is not subject to FOIA at this time because it is still being negotiated.” Durbin said he intends to file the same FOIA request to state agencies each week until a signed document is obtained.
Galax Gazette

Even though observers think Southwest Virginia is likely to lose seats, only one person from Southwest spoke at a virtual hearing for the Virginia Redistricting Commission Thursday. The lack of attendance raises questions about the commission’s ability to engage with the constituents whose districts it will draw. It's also struggled with hiring a communications firm.
stories from around the country
A Freedom of Information lawsuit against the University of Michigan has been dismissed after the university released the requested information. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, in association with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, filed a complaint in December in the Michigan Court of Claims on behalf of Lance J. Johnson, a UM Law School graduate who made a gift to the school in 2007. Johnson through ACTA requested information on how his gift was used by the school, claiming it was intended for a workshop that was only “sporadically” conducted. The lawsuit was filed after Johnson’s FOIA request for this information from March 2020 experienced multiple months-long delays. ACTA and the Mackinac Center dismissed the lawsuit after coming to a resolution with UM to provide the information, according to a Tuesday, July 27 joint statement from the three parties.
editorials & opinion
Maybe it’s the law of averages, but every blue moon or so a political party leader will make a valid point about governance in Virginia not (entirely) wrapped up in bald partisanship. In a notable instance, reported this week, House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, wondered about the upcoming special legislative session and the rather restrictive thinking involved. This is a special session, beginning Monday, called for the purpose of acting on assorted budgetary proposals — quite substantial ones, too — and it seems that the Democrats would like to get it done, but without a lot of fuss. Fuss meaning any discussion and debate. Or consideration of alternative proposals. You know, the things that generally characterize a legislative process. Why bring everyone to Richmond and sit them down in the Capitol, if the principal chore is to smile at each other and, on cue, go thumbs up.
The Virginian-Pilot

Changes to Charlottesville’s budget process should provide more transparency and, ultimately, more efficiency. The entire process would start earlier and allow more time for discussion and refinement. Department heads might have to make a greater effort in the beginning, but they — and the city as a whole — should see a smoother culmination to the process. An earlier schedule also should give the public a better chance to comment on budget issues before the decision process is too far advanced.
The Daily Progress