October 24, 2007
Hamilton County attorney votes for less open government (updated)
Jessica Fender of the Tennessean delivers the breakdown of a recent vote taken by the Open Meetings Subcommittee that has formed to study the state's current sunshine laws.
I was aware of the panel's existence, but hadn't learned of its membership until this vote was published. Hamilton County is represented in the group by County Attorney Rheubin Taylor. He voted with the majority, in the reporter's words, "to allow more elected officials – up to just shy of a quorum - to gather behind closed doors to deliberate on public business."
I've stayed somewhat quiet on this issue, because some comments I've read have confused me into wanting to avoid opening my mouth too early. The primary opponents of closing more government doors are, naturally, the media — newspapers in particular. (There is therefore little chance that a story on this in a newspaper will be free of bias.) That's not to say that there aren't citizen activists very animated on this issue.
However, some local government representatives have made a halfway convincing case that the proposed changes in the law are merely to protect sensitive information, such as the mental health of a public employee, or the identity of an undercover agent.
So, for now, I am content to link to the voting record itself, and let readers decide how they feel about that vote.
UPDATE: then again, here's a take on it from Smart City Consulting. Memphis lawmaker Ulysses Jones was also among those voting for the change.