"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have"
Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Albany: Do As We Do - Secrecy is OK

Gov. Paterson, one-time leader of "reform" Democrats who, as Governor, has single-handedly turned back the clock on even the smallest semblance of openness and transparency in state government, has vetoed a new law aimed at opening up government to the public.

Paterson nixed a bill that would fine government agencies that fail to follow the state's 30-year-old Open Meetings Law.

The bill was championed by nearly every major editorial board in the state, including the Syracuse Post Standard: (Read: Open Up May 4)

"Too often, government bodies -- city councils, village, town and school boards and the like -- either try to circumvent the (Open Meetings Law) or blatantly ignore it. At their worst, they act as if they are running private companies and have the right to keep their deliberations under wraps.

"Even when public officials are told they are violating the law -- by Robert Freeman, the executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, for example -- they sometimes shrug off his opinions.

"They know there is no real penalty for holding secret meetings or for failing to notify the public about a meeting in a timely manner. ...

"The expanded law would put some teeth into the openness requirements. It would give the court the authority to stop an action that was taken or deliberated during a gathering that violated the law.

"Importantly, the court also would be able to levy fines of up to $500 on public bodies that violate the law."

Of course, Paterson already lost any right to the claim of Albany reformer when he negotiated the bloated and unbalanced state budget behind closed doors with only the three Democrat men-in-a-room from NYC.

He did again when he hammered out a deal to reform the state drug laws and, just this week, when he announced agreement on a new plan to bail out NYC's subway system.

Democrat leaders of the Legislature willingly came along for the ride, and rank-and-file Democrats share the blame for failing to stand up and criticize the renewed secrecy.

It's an especially hard blow for Senate "reform guru" Dave Valesky, our neighbor from the Syracuse area to the south who sponsored the bill, but did little to advance its chances with the Governor, as well as Sen. Darrel Aubertine, who promised to sponsor a similar bill, but never did. (Read; Open Up March 18)

Paterson defended his veto, saying the $500 fines might be too much to bear for local governments.
Simple solution? Don't break the law and you don't have to pay the fines.

Read Paterson's veto message and more information the story here: Paterson's-veto-message

3 comments:

J.C. said...

BUZZzzz Phrases:
Sunshine Laws
Open Meeting Laws
Transparency in Govt.

Our local government uses those phrases to lull the taxpayer into thinking they are being informed of everything that goes on....I say BullCrapola. Items other than personnel issues and litigation are discussed in the Shroud of Secrecy known as the Executive Session.

Nice Job Gov. Patterson, you took away the only leverage we the taxpayers had at keeping the info our elected politicians discuss OPEN for all to see and hear. I say the measly $500 fine would be well spent and not a burden to the taxpayer what so ever.

I am equally disappointed that Aubertine did not follow through with his similar bill. I remember reading about it and being very excited about the chance of seeing a little more clearly what our govt. was up too.

But this news only makes me want to dig deeper and keep going to all of our local govt. meetings with my trustee voice recorder and a place to blog about it all day long.........

Anonymous said...

The public knows too much. All this does is slow down the process of getting the right things done.

We know have both the Senate and the Assembly w/the Gov. postion, too. Let the Dems get down to work and get this state back on the right course.

Anonymous said...

Patterson, Smith and Silver all come from a region that thinks everything north of Westchester is the same. I had in-laws that thought Watertown was right by Buffalo. These three stooges will never understand.

Live Blogging