Keeping Austin Weird…

Rainbow cup

Image by Näystin via Flickr

From a great NYT profile on Austin-based anarchist (can an anarchist really have a base?) Scott Crow…

Blogged here by Reason:

Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.

In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.

It’s interesting reading…weird, even.

Speaking of weird, a poster on one of their blogs in a free-for-all blasting a column I wrote some years ago managed to attack me by means of a false racial assault. It was plenty racist, but directed at a white me.

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Oh, Good. Secret Police! Just What We Need. Banana Republic, Anyone?

A police officer in Chicago posing on a Segway...

Image via Wikipedia

From Texas, quite possibly the worst FOI exemption of the year!

The Texas Senate approved legislation Tuesday banning the release of police officers’ photos in most cases, a bill open government advocates opposed.

House Bill 2006, by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, next heads to Gov. Rick Perry.

It specifies that an officer’s photo can be released by a police department if the officer has been charged with a crime, if the photo is evidence in a court case and in a few other instances.

The Houston Police Department pushed hard for the bill, saying releasing officers’ photos to the public would endanger undercover officers or those targeted by gangs. Under current law they can keep police officers’ photos out of public view, but an officer must sign an affidavit. Police officials said that can be an administrative nightmare.

And if a police officer is involved in a newsworthy incident, but has not yet been charged? Secret. The police officers who, hypothetically, enter the wrong home on a search arrant and tear the place up, then leave? Secret. The officer whose intervention in a dramatic search-and-rescue effort saved the day? I am guessing…not so secret.

This is utterly ridiculous. Sure, there are rare cases in which an officer’s name, in an undercover situation, needs protection. But in 99% of police interventions, there is not a thing in the world that is the least bit private about who the taxpayer-funded, public figure toting the gun and the badge is.

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Federal Judge: Texas Open Meetings Act Does Not Violate First Amendment Rights of Officials!

I am completely digging transparency as a “compelling government interest”!

A federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the Texas Open Meetings Act on Friday in a long-running case originally filed by members of the Alpine City Council. Council members from 11 cities later joined the case, including Mel LeBlanc of Arlington.

U.S. District Judge Robert Junell, based in West Texas, wrote that the law doesn’t muzzle the First Amendment right to free speech, as plaintiffs asserted, but instead protects “the compelling interest of governmental transparency.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the named defendant, praised the ruling as a victory for democracy and the First Amendment.

In a Star-Telegram opinion column in December, LeBlanc explained why he joined the suit. The open meetings act, he wrote, “is a vague and confusing law, made more so by opinions handed down by attorneys general and appellate court rulings throughout its 43-year history. Confusion creates a milieu of silence and non-action, hesitation that stems from fear of reprisal, including jail time and fines, or of simply making a mistake.”

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/25/2950984/federal-judge-upholds-texas-open.html#ixzz1Hie5TluN

 

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Texas, Taking a Bit of A Different Take than Utah…

A Texas lawmaker wants to ban e-mails, text messages and Internet postings by city and state leaders when they are doing the public’s business.

A bill by Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi would amend the Texas Open Meetings Act. The proposal, H.B. 2977, says an official would be committing an offense if he or she transmits an electronic message during a public meeting.

The Austin American-Statesman reports, for today’s editions, that Hunter is considering how violators should be punished. Hunter also says the update is necessary for Texas to take the open-meetings law into the digital age.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports Hunter became involved in the issue after a spat during a city council meeting involving two members texting each other.

 

Austin Wrestles With E-Mail and FOI

The Austin American Statesman had an interesting piece on e-mail access:

Worried that Austin City Council members may not have turned over all of their emails, officials are bringing in city technology experts as they make a new attempt at complying with the state’s open records law.

Information technology workers are compiling the records — emails among council members and City Manager Marc Ott during the past 13 months — requested by the American-Statesman and other media, amid allegations that the city’s first release of records was incomplete.

The new effort has already triggered the release of more emails from Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who last week made public 75 more correspondences, some of which were from an “automatic archiving system,” officials said.

 

An indictment for sharing information?

Map of Texas highlighting Nueces County
Image via Wikipedia

This is an incredible story

A Nueces County grand jury on Friday indicted the executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards on two felony counts related to the release of information about an inmate suicide.

Adan Munoz, 62, was indicted on two counts of misuse of official information, according to online court records.

District Attorney Anna Jimenez said the charges stem from allegations that Munoz released a document to KIII-TV reporter Rudy Trevino and Caller-Times reporter Jaime Powell that related to a suicide at the Nueces County Jail.

Munoz has not been arrested and said he only heard about the allegations from reporters. He had no further comment on the indictment.

Nueces County Sheriff Jim Kaelin said Munoz responded to a public records request from at least one reporter by sending a document from an ongoing criminal investigation at the Nueces County Jail.

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