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Vox Hawkeye A Study in the Intellectual Call for Open Government (and How One State Heeded It)
Unformatted Document Text:  comes the argument that the history surrounding the framing of the Constitution mandates such a right be read into the nation's founding charter. “For all practical purposes, a constitutional right of public access to local government meetings has already been recognized. The language of the Founding Fathers, of commentators through the years (both liberal and conservative), and of the Supreme Court declares that an informed populace, free to debate important public issues, is essential to the functioning of our government. Without allowing the public the right to attend local legislative deliberations, the glue which holds our democracy together turns to grease.” 44 On the other hand, some commentators were decidedly more circumspect in asserting such a fundamental basis for access; in fact, a few even questioned the validity and viability of open government law in general. For example, Wickham, while allowing the value of current open meeting laws on the books around the country, critiqued what he felt were some of their faults, citing what he believed to be the essential elements of an ideal open meetings law. Among these was the need to have a definite statement of the law's intent included in the legislation itself; in addition, he discussed the need of a well- established enforcement mechanism with specific sanctions, the latter of which should not include a criminal penalty but could encompass removal from public office. 45 (These are telling points as the Iowa Open Meetings Law has been amended twice to incorporate these suggestions.) Other scholars, such as Tucker, have proven much more strident than Wickham, offering a scathing evaluation of open meetings laws as being ill-considered and misdirected. Reviewing the aftermath of the 1976 federal open meetings law, Tucker pointed out that although "the most emotionally persuasive argument for open meetings on the federal level was the need to restore the people's faith in the government and its leaders (it turns out that) the Government in the Sunshine Act would not have affected nor even pertained to those problems which largely caused the public's malaise in the Vietnam- Watergate era.” 46 44 James R. Assaf, “Mr. Smith Comes Home: The Constitutional Presumption of Openness in Local Legislative Meetings,” 40 Case W. Res. 227 (1990), 268. 45 Douglas Q. Wickham, “LET THE SUN SHINE IN! Open-Meetings Legislation Can Be Our Key to Closed Doors in State and Local Government,” 68 Nw. U.L. Rev. 480 (1973). 46 Thomas Tucker, “’Sunshine’—The Dubious New God,” 32 Admin. L. Rev. 537 (1980), 543.

Authors: stepanek, steve.
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comes the argument that the history surrounding the framing of the Constitution mandates such a right be 
read into the nation's founding charter.  “For all practical purposes, a constitutional right of public access 
to local government meetings has already been recognized. The language of the Founding Fathers, of 
commentators through the years (both liberal and conservative), and of the Supreme Court declares that 
an informed populace, free to debate important public issues, is essential to the functioning of our 
government.  Without allowing the public the right to attend local legislative deliberations, the glue which 
holds our democracy together turns to grease.
    
On the other hand, some commentators were decidedly more circumspect in asserting such a 
fundamental basis for access; in fact, a few even questioned the validity and viability of open government 
law in general.  For example, Wickham, while allowing the value of current open meeting laws on the 
books around the country, critiqued what he felt were some of their faults, citing what he believed to be 
the essential elements of an ideal open meetings law.  Among these was the need to have a definite 
statement of the law's intent included in the legislation itself; in addition, he discussed the need of a well-
established enforcement mechanism with specific sanctions, the latter of which should not include a 
criminal penalty but could encompass removal from public office.
  (These are telling points as the Iowa 
Open Meetings Law has been amended twice to incorporate these suggestions.)
    
Other scholars, such as Tucker, have proven much more strident than Wickham, offering a 
scathing evaluation of open meetings laws as being ill-considered and misdirected.  Reviewing the 
aftermath of the 1976 federal open meetings law, Tucker pointed out that although "the most emotionally 
persuasive argument for open meetings on the federal level was the need to restore the people's faith in 
the government and its leaders (it turns out that) the Government in the Sunshine Act would not have 
affected nor even pertained to those problems which largely caused the public's malaise in the Vietnam-
Watergate era.
44
 James R. Assaf, “Mr. Smith Comes Home: The Constitutional Presumption of Openness in Local Legislative 
Meetings,” 40 Case W. Res. 227 (1990), 268.
45
 Douglas Q. Wickham, “LET THE SUN SHINE IN! Open-Meetings Legislation Can Be Our Key to Closed Doors 
in State and Local Government,” 68 Nw. U.L. Rev. 480 (1973).
46
 Thomas Tucker, “’Sunshine’—The Dubious New God,” 32 Admin. L. Rev. 537 (1980), 543.


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