April 27, 2009

Secrecy serves no one

Out of Seattle this time, columnist Danny Westneat takes on the argument that sometimes issues of public importance are best debated behind closed doors.

So we had the spectacle Thursday of an aide to Councilmember Jean Godden, an ex-journalist, pulling a Seattle Times reporter from a room by her purse strap. Then the city attorney saying that meeting in private probably violates the spirit of the state's open-meetings law (you think?). Then the inevitable Friday-afternoon backpedaling and forming of review committees.

Because nothing screams "we care about your concerns and are working to fix them" like a review committee.

Why do some politicians feel the need to keep their discussions out of the public eye? "Privacy lets them speak openly. Close the door and they can 'talk freely and debate issues without being worried about how our comments will be interpreted.'"

Luckily, not all politicians feel the same. Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown recently -- and openly -- commented on the possibility of instituting a state income tax. Agree with it or not, the important part is she didn't feel the need to hide behind closed doors before talking about it.

Her thoughts?

"Having a conversation about restructuring this tax system so that working-class families are treated more fairly is not a conversation I am afraid of having."