Friday, March 25, 2011

Getting Involved

Last night in Redding, I attended a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters regarding transparency in government. The reason it belongs here on my blog on getting healthier is that part of being healthy, I think, is an involvement in public affairs and one could not do better than to attend any and all meetings of the League of Women Voters who have no particular political point of view except to be involved.

The Forum: "Open Government: Where Do We Draw the Line?" was very informative and to the credit of the League addressed different levels of the audience. Efforts were made to educate the audience on what the basic premise of the The League of Women Voters were about and the principles of open government so that everyone could understand the basic arguments that the speakers would bring up. That was done admirably.

The three speakers were Mr. Doug Bennett of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Mr. Rick Duvernay, a city attorney for the city of Redding and Mr. Walt McNeill, local attorney.

To be honest, the speakers brought up information and ideas that I had not considered before especially Mr. Walt McNeill who has represented the local newspaper, The Record Searchlight, in the obtaining Freedom of Information requests.

The League did a good job in balancing the three speakers in that there were pros and cons regarding where the line of privacy vs. government transparency is drawn. The city attorney in expressing his own personal opinions that public employees live in a fish bowl atmosphere and that too much transparency would interfere with good judgments being made while the other two speakers disagreed. Mr. Bennett was the only speaker who was not an attorney.

It was evident that Mr. McNeill was the best prepared although Mr. Bennett had only arrived from Los Angeles. All three were able to express their opinons clearly and the period of time in which questions were addressed went well. They discussed the Brown Act which is the center of the transparency issue of open government.

I like best the statements of Mr. McNeill who said:"You get the open government you settle for. The law is on your side." He encouraged everyone that if they have questions or issues they should make the governmental bodies respond to their questions and issues according to the laws laid down in the Brown Act.

All three speakers gave resources to contact if they think their local government are not obeying the Brown Act. One was Californians Aware:

Before I went to Korea, I had withdrawn to myself completely. I did not see a problem with that as I was a writer and we thrive on solitude or do we? While I was in Korea, I could see I was doing better as a person when I had friends and became involved with people again. I still need time to do what I love which is reading and writing. When I returned to Redding, I continued to be involved with the community and met again someone I had known a while back. She suggested that I try the League of Women Voters. I am glad I did.

I think everyone should get out of the house ever so often. When I attended the Healthful Living Classes that the Public Health Department of Shasta County had, I met several women were doing the same thing I was doing before I went to Korea. They were staying in their home and not going out except to do some needed shopping. They even acknowledged that this was not a good thing. I agreed and it was in that class that I met up with the friend I met years before. Other friends have been returning to my life. The middle path means not doing too much of one thing but taking a little of the extremes and following a pathway of moderation. I recommend it but with the style that fits one's own personality. Maybe being a hermit can be healthful for some, it certainly was not for me in the long run.

There is another side to all of this. I have mentioned a friend named Ted. He sent me an email the other day in which he said he wrote his latest chapter on the book he was working on that was funny. I read it and cried and got mad at him. I sent him an email demanding how being burned by cigarettes by his father as an infant was funny. He said it was all my fault because I was always asking him about the scars he had on his shoulders.

Anyhow, he said something to me on something else on public involvement that has always stayed with me. He said when you live in a democracy, you have to fight for it everyday and that means small battles. You have to make sure the press stays as free as possible and we are lucky in that it is relatively free and you have to be involved so that when you see something that is not right you have to speak up even when they slam you down for it. I been slapped down for those small battles which is why I withdrew from contact with people when I retired from my day job. I was tired. Well, I rested. Now, I need to be involved again because that is the way democracy works. I am registered to vote and I stay informed and I got to meetings and keep myself active although not overly so as I have other things that must be done.

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