In my younger, more mentally virile days I could have written a very, or at least somewhat, sophisticated allegory using President Obama to represent all the various recent abuses of local-government transparency as opposed to open records laws written and intended.
Something to the effect of, “And here this KENYAN is firing AMERICAN people without first documenting any violations well enough, then agreeing to pay them off when they sue, but he doesn’t want to admit how much of OUR money he agreed to spend, even when he knows he has to.”
Or, “Some Democrat-Socialist godless MUSLIM is saying he’s going to cut 10 percent of the budget, and he’s telling people they won’t have a job, but his administration won’t release which jobs he plans to get rid of, and he says he has no plan and no idea how much money the nonplan will save.
“Meanwhile Congress is saying they’ll wait until a week or two after everything is done to explain what’s happened, and until then they’ll mostly say nothing and let the House Speaker make all public statements because they don’t want to sound discordant.”
Like that, but you know, more better-ish.
In any case, I decided it was a bad idea because really, a good percentage of people aren’t looking for literary devices in their Sunday paper.
And anyway, this is a thing that needs to be said directly.
Over on the editorial page, you can see how we really feel about the county’s treatment of the Robert S. Mendoza termination settlement. And everyone I talk to seems pretty disgusted with the way the ECISD administration has gone about its cuts, as well as how the board trustees have decided they’d rather look professional and congenial than represent or be accountable to their constituency.
So, more generally, the problem with government is that anyone that’s in it doesn’t want anyone knowing the majority of what they do. It’s mostly very boring work, but also messy and full of mistakes, as all earthly endeavors are.
Around here, a conservative Republican who claims to want small government often means he or she wants a fiefdom small enough that it’s possible to be a tyrant, and act away from any real scrutiny.
To do this you can either direct all questions to one person, who is useful but is very busy and rarely available (you’ll see the smaller sheriff’s offices do this a lot). Or you can refer all questions to someone readily available, but who isn’t directly involved with or responsible for anything (a lot of larger agencies of all kinds do this).
Or, when you really get called on something you know you’ve got to give out, you can drag your feet, seek a state attorney general’s opinion after 10 days, and hope that office gives its opinion as close to 40 days later as possible. By then, the information is typically no longer timely, or you’ve had time to do what you wanted anyhow.
The OA isn’t perfect, as anyone who reads 2A regularly can see. We don’t always talk to the right people, ask the right questions, or get the right documents to write the right story.
But I can genuinely say that whatever the reporter, with whatever subjective biases we carry with us and in whatever medium, we’re all out here wasting our time and good humor to get information as free and open as possible so that at your leisure you can find out what you need to know.
In my utopia, journalists don’t exist because your government freely volunteers or makes available everyone and everything you’re entitled to by law.
I don’t worry about that happening any time soon.