Friday, May 26, 2006

What's Good for the Goose: Kay Brooks on Open Meetings Laws

Kay Brooks' past blog posts on Tennessee's Sunshine Laws seem to indicate that she favors them, especially when elected officials are considering her pet projects involving home schooling. Here are some of her comments about government transparency and citizen access:
Government naturally creates a dependent society and works hard at protecting itself. One way that happens is by keeping folks out of the information loop. It worked for the church priests of old when they kept the Scriptures in Latin, it still works when our legislative priests create and maintain a convoluted legislative process .... let's begin to remove that cloud by embracing legitimate accountability and easy access by citizens to the information they must have in order to know what their own representatives are doing. And I'll push this even further down the pipeline. Every government entity ought to adhere to these rules. Citizens across the state need information from every governmental entity.
I am rather stunned by these comments. Not because they are farfetched, extremist, or unreasonable. In fact, I agree with their general principle. I am stunned at their seeming irony given that the process whereby she was recruited, promoted, and appointed by Metro Council was just as secretive, self-serving, manipulative, convoluted, unaccountable, and unruly as any state process she criticized. If Kay Brooks honestly opposes government as a closed system, how could she in good conscience accept her appointment to the school board? According to her own ethical standard, those are ill-gotten gains.

In another post she even advocated a fairly aggressive open meetings standard, which I think would be about right for Metro Council:
I want video streaming of every committee meeting, legislative session, and press conference by legislators, the governor and other agency heads. I'd even go for a link to the security cameras in the hall so I can know who's schmoozing and flesh-pressing whom.
We might know quite a bit more about the schmoozing and flesh-pressing between Council members, Davidson County Republican Party leaders and other Brooks supporters had there been more video feeds from more places that Council members meet outside Chambers and microphone shot. Archiving e-mails and documenting telephone calls concerning Council business would have probably shed even more light on the closed lobbying efforts in Council.

Finally, Brooks is hammerhead critical of a prospective mayoral candidate who was quoted as saying that that representative bodies are often required to make budgetary decisions that the public would not advocate. She writes:
So let's see if I'm following this correctly, we'll keep voting until we get the results we want, spending a half a million dollars every time. And we'll do an end run around the citizens by going to elected representatives to get this money.
Like 18 Council members did the end-around Nashvillians by appointing you via closed process to the school board, Kay?

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