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The Madera Tribune

Too much secrecy isn’t good

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webmaster | 06/26/13

Secrecy, secrecy and more secrecy. That’s what we need less of in government, but government at all levels is working to keep the public out of the governing loop.

The California Senate tried to put a secrecy bill through last week, but fortunately, enough people saw it and raised heck about it, and now it either will bite the dust or be morphed into a bill that actually strengthens the public’s right to know what is going on in government.

That’s what can happen when an attempt to run around freedom of information is found out. The media, the public, and even Gov. Jerry Brown objected to the bill, and it’s taking on a new persona.

The bill, had the governor signed it, would have forced local governments to bear the full financial burden of complying with the state’s public information law, otherwise known as the Brown Act. A good part of that burden is the unremunerative costs of filling requests for copies of public documents.

That might not seem like much, but it adds up. And when it adds up, the only way local governments could recoup the money would have been to raise the costs to the public, making it difficult for people with few or no resources to find out what’s going on in government.

Fortunately, we don’t have that problem in Madera or Madera County. Agencies are more than happy to provide copies of documents, provided they are given time to grant the request and provided those requesting the copies are willing to pay the copying fees.

The offices of County Clerk Rebecca Martinez and City Clerk Sonia Alvarez are dedicated to both the spirit and the letter of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which is based on the idea that open government is good government.

It’s too bad we are beginning to see longer secret meetings of the Madera County Board of Supervisors. They are called executive sessions, but they are in fact secret meetings which sometimes go on longer than the public parts of board meetings. This frustrates the public and gives rise to the question, “What are they trying to hide?”

What’s up with that? It doesn’t have to be.


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