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On The Public's Right to Know

December 5, 2010 - Joselyn King
State Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, says he is "choking" on a senate "gag order" intended to keep senate members from discussing who will be in charge of senate business during the upcoming legislative session.

Kessler wants the job -- and to be the state's next governor - - and he has been eager to discuss a needed rule in the senate that would provide for the senators electing one of their own to be senate president.

But Senate Majority Leader Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, released a press release last week -- yes, to the press -- warning his colleagues that they shouldn't discuss the senate president issue with . . .the press. . . as it sits before the Democratic caucus.

The irony wasn't lost on Kessler, who was asked what the punishment might be for senators who spoke to the press.

"Perhaps there would be an injunction preventing any offending member from ever playing in the Super Six," he jokingly responded.

On the serious side, Kessler noted that existing Senate rules do not prohibit any open discussion or spirited debate of the issues before the public.

"To the contrary... they require it," he continued.

The occurance of government conducting business in secret is one that should set the public's blood to boil above anything else.

This issue with WikiLinks and the disclosure of sensitive information is one that has to make people stop and think.

No, we don't want to disclose any information that could affect the safety of military in the field, but you have to think that much of the secrecy in government bodies is needless.

I know I've been to many public government meetings over the years where elected officials went into "private" executive session for the purposes of discussing a personnel matter, purchasing property or legal issues.

But I know I have always wondered -- who's to say that's what they're even discussing behind closed doors? How would we know? And the laws protect them.

And have you noticed how lacking in details the police reports you see printed in this newspaper have become? That's because that's all the information law enforcement thinks it needs to put out to the public.

One local police department was especially good about providing information -- until a business leader in the community confronted the chief, urging that his openess with the community was "bad for the community." To translate, the businessman couldn't rent his properties if the public knew drug dealers lived in the neighborhood.

Government always wants to put on a happy face for the public, but sometimes things are sour -- or at least need to be called into question.


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