It didn't work. He wants the world to be a better place. He and his life partner, Sarah, both Ex-Peace Corps Volunteers in Mali, want to do something significant to change things but are frustrated that they don't yet have enough skills to do it.
Jon left his firefighting and is now back again at a University to further his studies and get another degree. Sarah left her job as an investigative reporter and is now the Director of Open Government for New Mexico. She leads Fog (New Mexico Foundation for Open Government).
Jon is very proud of the work that Sarah is doing to make sure politicians keep their meetings open to the public. He told me I would be surprised if I knew the sort of shenanigans that go on by some politicians and that Sarah has to work hard to make sure the public is able to see what is going on. Newspapers do this also but we're losing a lot of papers who do this kind of investigative work.
He encouraged us to make a contribution to support Sarah's work for New Mexico and said we must have these organizations in Hawaii, too. I don't know. Do we?
Later: I just got an e-mail (following morning) from Jon and here's part of it. He explains FOG better than I do:
"...I hope that you guys do check out that NMFOG website. Sarah works hard for the organization and it is an important cause. They are a lot like the ACLU, in fact one of the FOG board members recently won an award given out by the New Mexico ACLU and we attended the award ceremony.
Here’s the thing about Open Government: If it was reversed overnight, no one would notice. But over time, corruption and mismanagement would run rampant. Right now, there are constant attempts to keep things secret; to do things behind closed doors. If this were allowed to continue unchecked, all decisions would be made in secret. Eventually you would be completely cut off from the democratic process. That is exactly how the ‘powers that be’ would like it. They don’t really want you to know what they’re up to.
It’s like freedom of speech. People are always trying to make limitations and exceptions. On a day to day basis these don’t affect your life, but that is because there are a small number of first amendment advocates fighting everyday against these forces of censorship. They have to be defended on a case to case basis.
Like open government issues, the right only exists on paper. It must be defended by activists. In New Mexico there is only one. You don’t have to give money to the cause. I just wanted you guys to know how important the issue is, not because it is what Sarah does, but because it is an important issue everywhere. It is a central tenet of our democracy. Few people realize that it is an important issue and even fewer understand it at the local level.
Sarah recommends that you try to go to City Hall and try to get a copy of the budget. It’s only after people try to get access to the government and are denied that they really understand this issue.
The bottom line(from Sarah) is: People don’t really understand “open government,” but they do understand “transparency.”....
And yes, Art and I did send a check to FOG.
(Much later.... Sarah wrote a comment and I decided to just add it to this post because it clarifies further what Open Government is about.)
Thank you for the shout-out, and the donation! It's greatly appreciated.And now for my soapbox. The issue posted on Ian Lind's blog sounds like a rolling quorum, which happens when elected officials discuss an issue and reach a consensus outside of a public meeting. Commissioner A talks to Commissioner B, who then talks to Commissioner C about the same issue. And so on. Then they all come to the public meeting and vote without any discussion. The public is left going, 'huh'? This is becoming even more problematic now that everyone is firing away on their Blackberries all the time.It sounds nit-picky, but rolling quorums violate the spirit of sunshine laws and frustrate the public's desire to hear deliberations on important matters. After all, public meetings are one of the only opportunities we have to influence policy and hold our local officials accountable. Maybe the elected officials are about to fire a popular superintendent, or they're negotiating deals with an oil company that wants to lease drilling rights. (A big issue in New Mexico.) Whatever it is, people who care about that issue are caught off-guard and given little to no opportunity to weigh in and try to influence the commission's decision. They're left feeling disenfranchised and cynical about participatory government. This should never happen in America, but people really, really like to meet and talk behind closed doors.Okay, I got it out of my system. Merry Christmas to all, and thanks again!
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
p.s. Check out www.nfoic.org to find out about sunshine laws and advocates in your state.