There should be some kind of insurance policy that covers you for anxiety attacks, buckled knees leading to collapse, chest palpitations, heart failure or worse when the IRS sends you an ominous looking envelope that says “Official Business – Penalty for Private Use, $300.”
It looked like a torrential downpour was about to cut loose as accurately predicted by meteorologist, Brent Watts at WDBJ. I had not made my daily trek to the mailbox yet so I’d better hustle I said to myself.
As I usually do upon exiting my front door I pulled the door closed just enough to not latch it.
Why you say do I do that? Easy answer – by some twist of my faithful front door knob in
Dick Hammerstrom, Moderates Anonymous Juries: Panalists - Matt Britton, Kristie Kane, Judge Clifford Weckstein
Sen. Ken Cuccinelli
UPDATE: Sept. 14, 2011 – Today’s editorial on AG Ken Cuccinelli’s interview with The Roanoke Times Editorial Board reminded me of the video I took at the VCOG conference Oct. 16, 2009. The video on anonymous juries with Judge Clifford Weckstein is also interesting (see bottom).
Oct: 18, 2009: If you are too intimidated by your government that you shy away from poking into what they are doing and how they are doing it then VCOG membership is for you. For just $30 a year you can support those who pry open doors, expose government secrecy and educate the public on their “right to know.”
This year’s annual meeting was held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton. It was chock-full of panelist discussions on anonymous juries, judicial selection, transparency in the Obama administration and some speechifying by the Republican candidate for attorney general, Sen. Ken Cuccinelli.
To Cuccinelli’s credit he is only one of two State Senators to be a member of the VCOG. The other member is Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania. Delegate Chris Saxman was a panel participant.
Maria Everett, Advisory Council
Cuccinelli had some interesting insight into the workingsgames of the Rules Committee (where voting is secret). Legislative information is held so tightly at times that not even all legislators have access to it. “Whoever controls the information has more power,” said Cuccinelli bluntly. (The video reveals his “happy thoughts” and “bull-honky” amusing revelations). He advocates for making the entire Virginia budget available online.
Keeping jurists names and personal information secret (anonymous juries) brought some good exchange (see video). Judge Clifford Weckstein of Roanoke was in on that and spared with Matt Britton King George County Commonwealth Attorney. Scared jurors versus an open judicial system where openness is key to the democratic process and judicial fairness. Judge Weckstein made his point saying how would you know if the juror was connected to the defendant by affiliations not readily apparent at first glance.
Pres. Lawrence McConnell and Exec. Dir. Megan Rhyne
Each year the VCOG recognizes an outstanding citizen or journalist for their individual effort in exposing government secrecy or using FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to inform the public. This year’s Laurence E. Richardson Award for citizen use of FOIA went to Carol Lindstrom of Christiansburg. Read about Carol here in The Roanoke Times.
Maria Everett, executive director of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council renders informal opinions on the application or interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act. Everett along with Alan Gernhardt answer questions from citizens similar to – “what constitutes a public meeting” and “when is a public body discussion exempt from FOI.”
Megan Rhyne, VCOG Executive Director was warmly applauded for putting this year’s event together. Next year’s annual conference will be in Richmond.
The Virginia Coalition for Open Government is a nonprofit alliance formed to promote expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings at the state and local level. Their efforts are focused solely on local/state information access.