Tuesday Reads — Sunshine Shenanigans

So did you hear the one about the school board that held a meeting 200 miles from home?

Well, a judge did, and opted to fine members of the  Storm Lake School Board$400 each, according to The Des Moines Register. The board also used a closed session officially called to talk about a superintendent search to also talk about budget issues. The story notes that this is a “rare blow” against a school board for a meetings violations, which is exactly how lobbyists at the Statehouse fighting tougher sunshine laws like it.

This is the sort of crap that goes on more often than you think, especially in smaller cities and towns, where local electeds think they can get away with fudging the rules to play it sneaky. If I have to hear one more paid shill for local governments tell me that tougher laws will stop healthy “brainstorming” I’m going to lose my green beer.

They want these laws weak for one reason and one reason only, so they can hide things and not be held accountable.

Speaking of weak, Radio Iowa points out that Iowa ranks in the bottom half of states in terms of government openness, according to a new survey. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy says a bill putting budget info online has a 50-50 chance. There are also bills that would strengthen sunshine law enforcement and penalties. But McCarthy argues that it’s really only the media that wants action.

According to McCarthy, he’s heard more from the press than the public on this issue. “The press is probably the number one constituency for it. I generally, to be very frank with you — in fact, I’ve never been lobbied by a citizen on the issue,” McCarthy says, ” but I have been lobbied by members of the media.”

 This, of course, is McCarthy laying the groundwork for giving in to the Iowa League of Cities etc., who want to keep things the way they are. Pathetic.

But evidently there’s a public groundswell to tax nursing home residents. The Register tracks a bill that would assess a tax on some residents with hopes of leveraging a large pot of federal Medicaid money. Many nursing homes would actually get more back than they pay in, which means they could offset the extra cost for residents.

What’s troubling is that not all the tax money would go entirely for direct payments to nursing homes. It would go to a long-term care system account. Remember the Senior Living Trust fund, which was supposed to expand long-term care choices for Iowan but instead was a slush fund for lawmakers who couldn’t balance a budget? That was supposed to be a great state-federal partnership, too.

In Mason City, according to the Globe-Gazette, the school board voted 6-0 to allow Breathalyzer testing of every high school student who attends prom. Students will blow just before they enter Music Man Square for their magical, memorable night. A keepsake photo will be available for those with a clean reading. Just kidding.

This year’s prom theme? “Hot Date in a Police State.” Oh, I know, safety first.

I know what he said is kind of crazy, but why did I get a warm feeling when U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested that AIG executives who helped ruin the economy should bow out Japanese-style and “do one of two things: resign or commit suicide.”

Grassley was talking with WMT radio here in Cedar Rapids when he made the suggestion. His spokesman insisted that he doesn’t really want the executives to go out like that. But I think the senator certainly has his finger on the pulse beat of American public opinion.

Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Tuesday Reads — Sunshine Shenanigans

  1. writertee

    I know what he said is kind of crazy, but why did I get a warm feeling when U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley suggested that AIG executives who helped ruin the economy should bow out Japanese-style and “do one of two things: resign or commit suicide.”

    Grassley was talking with WMT radio here in Cedar Rapids when he made the suggestion. His spokesman insisted that he doesn’t really want the executives to go out like that. But I think the senator certainly has his finger on the pulse beat of American public opinion.

    Have a happy St. Patrick’s Day. (!!!)

    My reaction to this is nausea (at best) and/or that I am an alien (at worst). Passions have flared regarding AIG’s executives behavior. I hope for reason in response. I want to ask and have answered why or even how they could feel okay taking this money. I believe I would behave differently, but I don’t understand the mindset behind giving or getting it. Are they evil? Are they the aliens? Will we feel better/vindicated/satisfied if there are suicides?
    I know it was hyperbole, but how will we feel if it happens?

  2. tdorman

    I understand the way you feel about this, writertee. But I also understand that Grassley doesn’t really want anyone to commit suicide. His remarks, though over the top, express a frustration that I think a lot of people are feeling. He’s mad and said something off the wall, but the reason for his anger is valid.

  3. Dorman

    The Weekly Standard blog also makes some good points about Grassley’s comments. Anger, though valid, probably doesn’t accomplish much:
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/03/grassley_to_aig_its_seppuku_ti.asp

  4. writertee

    I don’t begrudge anyone’s emotions. I am angry…and rather bewildered. I’d like them not to receive the bonuses and I’d like them to explain themselves. I’d watch it. Jon Stewart could host.

    However, as convenient as it is to demonize it doesn’t seem to me to be

  5. writertee

    [I confess I clicked “submit” too fast. I shall now throw myself onto my keyboard…]

    Anyway, it seems to me demonizing is so “Axis of Evil” and “You’re gonna answer for this” is the new black…

  6. tdorman

    You’re right, of course. And frankly, I’m ashamed of embracing such bravado.

    Now, the only honorable thing left for me to do is walk outside and step in front of a St. Patrick’s Day parade.

  7. writertee

    Manly, yes. But I like it too~~~

  8. Jason

    I have to admit I’m a little torn on the sunshine laws. I certainly believe that decisions, budgets, taxes, etc. need to be transparent and given time for public debate and comment. We’re a long way from that today and we need more scrutiny (more importantly more people interested and engaged, however).

    I do see a point in the open meetings issue that seems valid. I think there is some value in members of a local city council or school board having the ability to talk and debate and share ideas without having them be public record. In today’s “gotcha” sound bite culture it’s very difficult to have a real discussion if every word is parsed and potentially misinterpreted. It only leads officials to keep their thoughts to themselves, speak very generically and limit their “thinking out loud” that might lead to some great outcomes.

    I also agree that given this ability, officials will be very temped to abuse it. It’s a tough issue, but I think simply saying the only way to govern to have your mind open to the world is naive.

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