Endangering Democracy for Lawmakers’ Convenience

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proudly proclaimed that “California does democracy like nowhere else in the world.” But as he warned, we cannot take our democracy for granted. The pandemic has changed how we do business: segments of the private world now operate remotely without the need for face-to-face interactions. But in a democracy, the function of government requires greater public transparency and accountability for its very foundation.

Photo courtesy of DB’s travels, Flickr.

This year, a trio of bills in the legislature would take the wrong lesson from the pandemic and undermine these democratic values for the convenience of politicians – allowing public officials to engage in policymaking from private locations that are not identified, or accessible to the public, or even located within the state – without need or justification.

Our open meetings laws have been protecting democracy for decades. But even as early as 1855 California law recognized that “place is an essential ingredient” of lawmaking because the officers of government “ought to be found by the citizen who is in search of them.” Access to government officials is essential for the public as well as media representatives, whether the community is concerned about tax rates or fighting for our civil liberties. Throughout history, a key organizing tool for impacted communities has been to show up to public meetings to confront the public officials and to hold them accountable. Public access also ensures that we know who else is in the room when policy decisions are made.

During the pandemic, government bodies have been forced to strike a balance between legitimate public health concerns and the value of public meetings. We have seen some government bodies suffer as the challenges of remote participation resulted in breakdowns in the ordinary government processes. Public officials were not only secluded in private homes, but many also turned off their video cameras for an entire meeting, leaving their constituents and the media attempting to engage with an empty screen. In one notable example, a Board of Supervisors member routinely teleconferenced in from his estate in Montana, far removed from his constituents. This setup understandably fosters mistrust and suspicion about public servants and the bodies on which they serve. While it may be necessary in an emergency, it is no model for good government.

Click here to read the full article at San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Comments

  1. No, Mr Newscum. First of all, America is NOT a deomocracy. The Founders didn’t want “Mob Rule”….but they’ve never encountered anything like a communist democrat before. We are a REPUBLIC (We The People, where the little guy gets a voice). But You’re correct. Cali dems do “democracy” like nowhere else, because they don’t even do “democracy”. They do DICTATORSHIP. They lie to the public, cover up facts, omitt truths, use fake news and false propaganda, and used the “scamdemic” to CHEAT in elections. Well, that’s not true because dems have been cheating on elections for over 50 years, using dead people, cats, dogs, ballet harvesting, you name it.

Speak Your Mind

*