Transparency News 9/17/13


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

State and Local Stories


Henrico County officials mailed 150,000 meals tax brochures last week to every address in the county – and beyond – at a cost of $26,680, according to county officials. The brochures, which offer information about the wording of November’s voter referendum on the proposed tax and information on why the county is seeking more revenue, were sent to homes, businesses and post office boxes.

A Republican legislator and a former Democratic Party of Virginia official have called on Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones toinvolve the public in the decision about where to build a minor league baseball stadium. “It serves no useful purpose for the people to be the last to know what their elected mayor truly has in mind,” Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, a Richmond Republican, and Paul Goldman, a former state Democratic Party chairman, wrote in a letter to Jones dated Monday. “The competing interests are fundamental, the consequences of the wrong choice profound.”

The race for money in the Virginia governor’s campaign again went to Terry McAuliffe, with the former head of the Democratic Party raking in nearly $7.36 million in July and August, according to reports released by his campaign and a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions. His Republican rival, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, raised about $5.69 million, according to an analysis of campaign donations released Monday by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Washington Post

Did a bit of “housekeeping” at a Prince William Board of County Supervisors meeting Aug. 6 turn into a political coup for supporters of the Bi-County Parkway? Or was it an attempt to clarify what the board intended to do in July? It depends on whom you ask. A misunderstanding about two resolutions passed in July and August underscore the issue at the heart of the latest controversy over the Bi-County Parkway: the potential closure of routes 234 and 29 through the Manassas National Battlefield Park. Toward the end of an Aug. 6 board meeting, Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said he wanted to address a “housekeeping” item in a parkway resolution that supervisors passed in July. Stewart said in an interview that he wanted to make sure the July resolution simply reaffirmed the county’s 2005 position on the road, rather than establish new county policy. In offering the measure Aug. 6, which he called a housekeeping item, Stewart did not pass out a written resolution, as is the board’s custom.
Washington Post

National Stories

The governing board of Louisiana State University agreed Monday to hand over information about its presidential search to a state district judge, but not to the newspapers that sued for the records. District Judge Janice Clark ruled earlier that the L.S.U. Board of Supervisors violated state public records law by refusing to release the documents, including résumés of the 35 candidates considered. The university’s lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, argued that releasing the names would take away the university system’s right to appeal. To get the case moving again, Mr. Faircloth and Lori Mince, a lawyer for The Advocate and The Times-Picayune newspapers, agreed that the information would be released to the judge, but would stay under seal. F. King Alexander was hired in March as the system president and main campus chancellor. The search committee refused to release information about other candidates and forwarded only his name to the full board.
New York Times

A lower court’s decision to allow the government to limit journalists’ observation of wild horse roundups by the Bureau of Land Management should be overturned, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and more than a dozen news organizations argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals (9th Cir.). “The public interests that favor visual coverage far outweigh the perceived but unsubstantiated concerns by BLM that the presence of journalists and others with cameras would have a negative impact on the efficiency of the wild horse roundups or endanger the safety of the public and those involved,” the brief argued.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Back in March, a federal appeals court in Washington revived a fight over the government's intent to keep secret any document about drone strikes. Ruling for the challengers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asked a trial judge in Washington to take a second look. Now, with the case is back in Washington's federal trial court, the challengers contend the U.S. Department of Justicehasn't budged from its earlier position in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Blog of LegalTimes

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday urged everyone to celebrate the birthday of the U.S. Constitution tomorrow -- except those who think the document is an "empty body" whose meaning can be filled in by activist judges. In that case, Scalia said in his best New York accent, "Fugget about the Constitution!" Scalia spoke to a large audience at The George Washington University on the eve of Constitution Day, which marks the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. The event was co-sponsored by ConSource, a project launched in 2007 to digitize and spread the word about a vast range of constitutional source documents.
Blog of LegalTimes

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of cell phone owners now use their phone to go online, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.  We call them “cell internet users” and define them as anyone who uses their cell phone to access the internet or use email. Because 91% of all Americans now own a cell phone, this means that 57% of all American adults are cell internet users. The proportion of cell owners who use their phone to go online has doubled since 2009.
Pew Internet & American Life Project

With just a few clicks, staffers in former school Indiana Superintendent Tony Bennett’s office made one of the Indiana Republican Party’s most valuable tools a public document — free to anyone. The master fundraising list is extensive, containing contact information for thousands of Republicans from grassroots supporters and precinct committee leaders to top-dollar lobbyists and donors. Cellphones, personal emails and other valuable notes are included in the spreadsheet, two versions of which were found on Department of Education servers. The fundraising lists, campaign emails and more than 100 “campaign calls” entries on Bennett’s calendar were obtained by The Associated Press through multiple public records requests last week.
Indianapolis Star


Megan Rhyne, VCOG Blog: I sometimes get the feeling in committee meetings or training sessions that people think I'm being a conspiracy-theorist type when I talk about public bodies using the two-by-two rule to discuss public business out of the public eye. If by chance you think I'm being paranoid, how's this: an email from a County-That-Won't-Be-Named, asking members to sign up for slots to meet TWO-BY-TWO with a local business.