How can “open government groups” be so blind to the reality of remote public meetings?

I’m honestly baffled that a coalition of “open government organizations” would call on Democrat Governor Dan McKee to reinstate executive orders allowing government bodies to meet remotely again:

We therefore once again strongly urge you to reinstate your earlier executive orders so as to permit public bodies to meet virtually and thereby allow the public to monitor and, where authorized, participate in those meetings remotely. The discouraging and admittedly tiring length of time that we have all had to deal with the effects of Covid demands more, not less, attention to ensuring public oversight of the democratic process.

We’d be better off mandating that government be completely closed down except for vital services.

COVID-driven remote meetings set open government back decades in Rhode Island, made it much more difficult to hold government officials accountable, and put a huge wet blanket on public participation.  From my experience, this has been so obvious that one almost has to conclude that activists are manipulating ACCESS/RI to advance the complete antithesis of what they claim to support.

The media people on the list, like Scott Pickering of the East Bay Media Group and Ethan Shorey of the Valley Breeze, are perhaps well meaning and only hoping to make their employees’ lives easier.  However, those with any experience advocating for issues, like Steven Brown of the RI ACLU and John Marion of Common Cause RI, should see the manifest problems.

Sure, it would be great if all meetings had to be live-streamed, recorded, and made available in streamable online archives for on-demand viewing.  But allowing elected officials to go back to the near-complete situational control of participating in public meetings as if they were corporate staff meetings is a recipe for corruption.

Having the power, with the click of a button, to completely silence undesired speakers (as if they no longer existed) and easily enforce the most strict and unreasonable time limits, while preventing the need to endure so much as a tense room, is every corrupt official’s dream.  Open government groups ought to be the most concerned organizations about this step, not its lead advocates, which makes you wonder where their sympathies actually lie.

 

Featured image by Justin Katz.

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4 months ago

[…] law is whatever a handful of elites say it is.  Meanwhile, government agencies can return to their super-control of who can speak at their meetings.  The declaration that everybody should have remote access to […]

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