Let some sunshine in, governor
There is a fundamental expectation that the public’s business ought to be conducted in public. It is a principle Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently is still wrestling with as he makes the transition from private citizen to public servant.
“Still pushing to get a budget agreement as soon as possible, negotiators from both the administration and legislative leaders went behind closed doors Monday to work on remaining issues….” read an Associated Press story on Tuesday.
In his efforts to build a “consensus” within an often-polarized state Legislature, the governor often forgets the citizens’ general distaste for back-room politics. Especially when there’s cigar smoke involved.
Closer to home, The Union believed Nevada County citizens had a right to know whom the governor was considering to fill a seat on the Board of Supervisors, vacated by Drew Bedwell, who stepped down for medical reasons. We believed because the position is an elected one, anyone interested in assuming that elected position shouldn’t have a problem publicly disclosing that desire.
But the governor’s office apparently does not agree. It refused to release details related to the pending appointment, citing an exemption in the Public Records Act that allows it to protect correspondence “of and to the governor or employees of the governor’s office.”
The letter of the law, in other words, permits the governor to keep secret files. But the spirit of the law was certainly violated. We weren’t asking the governor for love letters, or even correspondence on what could be called confidential personnel matters. We were asking him for information relating to his impending appointment of someone who will serve Nevada County on its most influential public body – at least until voters can choose their own replacement for Bedwell in November.
We suspect anyone looking to be appointed by the governor would have no problem with him releasing information. Especially since they’d probably be running for election in November.
As he continues to muscle California back from the depths of financial ruin, the governor must respect the need to keep the public included in that process. And that means recognizing the difference between sunshine and dimly lit florescent bulbs.
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