Transparency News, 9/3/21


September 3, 2021
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state & local news stories

Prince William School Board Chair Babur Lateef plans to move forward with a vote on new public comment rules after Wednesday night’s board meeting grew tense with speakers attacking that plan as well as the school system’s mask mandate. A little over a dozen speakers voiced anger at the school board for the proposed changes, which would cap public comment at two 30-minute sessions per meeting and ban signs that aren’t cleared by the division. Lateef said the plan would create more avenues for people to give comments, like the ability for those who can’t attend meetings to upload videos to be played during the meeting. Technically, he said, it would also extend the in-meeting comment period by allowing for 30 speakers to talk for two minutes. Current rules call for a single 30-minute comment period that the board technically has to extend, though doing so has been just a formality when there are more speakers beyond the 30-minute period. But Lateef also said that the proposed changes are, at least to some degree, a response to the chaos that seized the Loudoun County School Board last spring, with meetings disrupted by protestors angry about critical race theory and the rights of transgender students.

Wednesday evening, a brief news release indicated that Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney had been fired. No explanation was given. On Thursday, Charlottesville Tomorrow asked City Manager Chip Boyles, Assistant Police Chief James Mooney and the city’s director of communications, Brian Wheeler, why the chief had been terminated.  No answers were relayed.
Charlottesville Tomorrow
editorials & opinion
"Out-of-control crowds may be amusing to watch on YouTube, but they are not as entertaining when you’re actually trying to hear what’s being said."
IT SHOULDN’T be necessary to remind adults that they are expected to maintain a certain level of decorum at public meetings. But unfortunately here we are. Just as once seemingly immutable standards of speech and dress have deteriorated over the years, so has the public behavior of some individuals who should know better. Public hearings that prevent people from speaking freely also prevent elected officials from understanding exactly how their policies and pronouncements are affecting the people they govern. These meetings should be a feedback loop, not a closed bubble where only “approved” opinions are allowed to be voiced. In order for the system of representative government to work, both sides must maintain an appropriate level of respect and public decorum. Out-of-control crowds may be amusing to watch on YouTube, but they are not as entertaining when you’re actually trying to hear what’s being said.
The Free Lance-Star

New York's transparency laws are supposed to operate based on the presumption of openness. But former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration approached citizen access to government from the exact opposite angle – information belonged to the government unless the government deemed it worthy to share with the people. If the new administration of new Gov. Kathy Hochul is to keep its pledge to make government more open, then one of the policies it needs to reverse from the Cuomo years is one that requires the governor’s office to sign off on sensitive public records before they’re released by state agencies under the Freedom of Information Law.
The Daily Gazette (Schenectady)