Let the Sunshine in: the Open Government is Good Government Act of 2010 would improve government transparency in the District
On Monday, Councilmember Bowser (D, Ward 4) held a press conference to announce that she will be introducing a bill that to improve the transparency of how government business is conducted. DCFPI’s Executive Director, Ed Lazere, was there to speak in support of the legislation.
The Open Government is Good Government Act of 2010 would strengthen the District’s currently weak open meetings law, which states that meetings are only required to be open to the public when official action is being taken. Official action includes votes, rulemaking, resolution making or other official actions.
What’s the problem limiting open meetings this way? Well, a lot of critical decisions that affect the public can be made before official action is taken. Take for example, last summer’s closed door budget deliberations. The Council met for nearly a week to discuss serious budget cuts and tax increases. Members of the media were allowed to attend, but the public was not. The Council wasn’t required to hold an open meeting because they didn’t take a vote. They did that the following week, with little debate. Those decisions had significant impacts on DC residents and they should have had the option to see what decisions the Council was debating.
Councilmember Bowser’s bill would make any other meeting attended by a quorum of officials to be open to the public. (There would be exceptions for meetings that are discussing contract negotiations, collective bargaining negotiations and other sensitive discussions.) This would mean that not only would the votes that change laws and policy in the District be open the public, but also the deliberations and decision making process by elected officials to reach those votes, would be more transparent.
To see a draft copy of the bill to be introduced, click here.