Marcie Palmer has my endorsement. Click images to enlarge.
Posts tagged council races
and she has put together a record sum of money for a Renton council race.
We had a great time at Greg Taylor’s fundraising event tonight at the Red House. Gene Sens, the owner, is an exquisite chef and a gracious host. And the conversation and fellowship was wonderful. Greg will be an excellent Renton council member.
A little later in the evening, my wife and I attended a very exciting campaign meeting at Denis Law’s new downtown headquarters. The headquarters is beautiful, well-equipped, and professional. And, as usual, his campaign remains extremely organized. The senior campaign manager, Barbara Chadwick, runs excellent meetings. Having participated in countless labeling and sign making parties in rec rooms, garages, and front lawns in the past, I can say Denis’s campaign has set a new standard for organizing in our city….Renton is really growing up. It was a very upbeat meeting, as doorbellers and online polls are showing Denis way out front in this race. Yay!
Cute Story about Randy Holts barbershop (Future Look Hair Design) with council-candidate Greg Taylor
Randy Holt, owner of the Future Look Hair Design barber shop in Renton, brushes off Greg Taylor after cutting his hair. Taylor is running for a position on the Renton City Council. Holt put down his roots in Renton 32 years ago, and some of his customers have been returning for decades.
As my last act as council president last December, I requested that my council secretary place all my council incoming and out-going email in an open public file, available for anyone who wants to see it for whatever reason, without need to file a complicated freedom of information request. The action was quickly embraced and repeated by Councilmembers Denis Law, and Marcie Palmer, and soon all of the council…as we set a new bar in terms of public access to council email.
Today’s Seattle Times article about public email is further evidence that we did the right thing:
Are e-mails public records?
By Maureen O’Hagan
Seattle Times staff reporter
Most workers know the boss can track their computer use: Send too many personal e-mails, visit too many Web sites unrelated to work, and it could spell trouble.
State workers get the same warning. But unlike workers at private companies, their business, by law, is open to public scrutiny. So what happens when a state worker uses his office computer to send e-mails about things like dating habits, weekend plans or family turmoil?
Do taxpayers have a right to see those messages?
State officials are grappling with that question as citizens have begun demanding broad swaths of e-mail records under the Public Records Act, according to Tim Jaasko-Fisher, an assistant attorney general.
“Ten years ago, asking for everything on someone’s computer wouldn’t mean that much,” he said. “Now we’ve reached a point in society where the vast majority of communication, whether it be in a government office or the private sector, is electronic. … Maybe now, people are figuring out that they can make these requests.”
Valerie Witt, a Centralia mother of five, is one of them. In demanding years of e-mails sent or received by a particular Department of Social and Health Services worker, she has placed herself in the middle of a battle that pits the public’s right to know against privacy rights and puts a little-noticed Court of Appeals decision to what could be its first major test. The fact that the state employee is facing possible discipline over her computer use makes the case all the more touchy.
The 2000 court ruling that addressed the issue — by denying the release of a government employee’s e-mails that were intensely private — still hasn’t been fleshed out, so its implications aren’t clear. Witt’s case seems poised to answer those questions.
The dispute began after Witt filed a lawsuit in 2004 in Thurston County claiming DSHS failed to protect their son, Nathan, before she and her husband adopted him and four younger siblings in 1995. Witt alleges it took more than 30 complaints of abuse and neglect before state workers finally removed Nathan from his birth parents.
In addition, she argued that the state failed to get Nathan needed treatment — even after he began hurting himself and others, even after experts said he needed psychiatric counseling, even after the court ordered that he get help. Nathan, now 21, still has problems and is living on the streets, according to medical records in the court file.
One caseworker named in Witt’s lawsuit was Brenda BigEagle, who worked with Nathan when he was a teen. Witt didn’t think BigEagle handled Nathan’s case properly. Witt also said she heard rumors that BigEagle often used her work computer for personal business.
So Witt asked the state for items on BigEagle’s computer, including a list of every Internet site she had visited and her e-mail records.
BigEagle’s lawyer declined to comment on the case.
By state law, all government records are presumed to be open to scrutiny unless they’re specifically exempted.
State workers spent months preparing the records Witt requested. From Witt’s point of view, the results were mixed.
The state turned over a list of Web sites visited on BigEagle’s computer, including hundreds of apparently personal sites dealing with everything from banking to dating.
“She has no business using the state computer” for those Web sites, Witt said. “It gave me red flags.”
As for the e-mails, the state released several thousand pages, but blacked out big chunks of them, citing privacy reasons. Some of the blacked-out information was about other children’s cases. But numerous personal e-mails were, too.
For that, the state relied on the Court of Appeals ruling, which involved an employee of the Spokane prosecutor’s office who was fired after supervisors found she spent too much time on personal e-mails. After a reporter asked to see the offending e-mails, the employee tried to block the release. It turned out that she had been sexually assaulted, and much of her e-mail was related to that.
The court ruled that the content of the e-mails was not a matter of public record. The purpose of open-records laws, the court ruled, is to let citizens scrutinize the conduct of government. The e-mails didn’t have anything to do with government, and releasing them would violate the woman’s privacy.
“It is the amount of time spent on personal matters, not the content of personal e-mails or phone calls or conversations, that is of public interest,” the court ruled.
Jaasko-Fisher, who represents DSHS in the Witt matter, said BigEagle’s e-mails meet the two-part test in the Spokane case: They have nothing to do with the operation of government, and they would be considered “highly offensive” to a reasonable person.
“Largely, until now, the idea [behind the Public Records Act] has been to look at how government is functioning and to hold government accountable,” he said. “What it is not for is to target a particular individual and monitor their doings just because they happen to be employed by the state.”
Greg Overstreet, an attorney specializing in open government who until recently worked for the attorney general, disagrees. He thinks the facts of the Spokane case were so unique that the decision has limited application. What state employees do during work hours by its very nature is related to the conduct of government, he said.
“Unless the e-mails in this case are similar to the horrible facts in [the Spokane case], then DSHS is risking losing a legal case,” he said.
As the state was poring over all the e-mails in question, BigEagle went to another court and tried to block the release, arguing that some of it was “potentially embarrassing to myself and others.” She cited “hundreds of personal e-mails” that should be protected. The judge granted a temporary order preventing the release of about 900 pages of e-mails.
Under the temporary order, the state can’t release those records even if it wants to.
A hearing on the temporary order is scheduled for today. Jaasko-Fisher said he’s hoping that case will be transferred to Thurston County, so it can be consolidated with Witt’s case. No ruling is expected for some time.
Maureen O’Hagan: 206-464-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
When we were having the debate about whether the council should review city contracts between 20K and 50K (see my previous posting below), we were covering a lot of ground in our debate. Don Persson explained it was our duty to make sure we knew in advance where money was being committed; I agreed and pointed out we could easily and swiftly approve contracts as consent agenda items if they were provided to us in advance of our weekly council meeting. But Dan and Terry kept insisting that for the fifty annual contracts between $20,000 and $50,000, the council should not see them, and that Don and Denis and Marcie and I must simply be untrusting. I went on to point out that often the issue is priorities more than trust, e.g. when we spend money for new economic development studies it should be for areas of interest to the council….the mayor and staff may not know what we want. The debate went back to Terri, Don, Dan, and Denis a few times, and then I began asking for the floor again but not getting recognized. Then the mayor recognized Toni, who said that our finance director does a good job keeping receipts (which is true, but a bit beside the point), but then she closed by saying something unfortunate along the lines that we must just all be idiots, and she “called for the question.”
The mayor smiled and tried to end the debate, but I did not intend to be denied my opportunity to speak or to let the idiot comment go unresolved. So I declared a point of order, and pointed out that “calling for the question” does not stop debate by itself…it is a motion that must pass in order to stop the debate. Dan Clawson, an attorney and council member immediately responded that I was wrong, as did our city attorney. I reached for my guide on Roberts Rules of Order, stood up to present the facts to the city attorney, who could now tell by my demeanor that she must be mistaken. The chambers quieted down as the city attorney read from her copy, while I read along silently on mine; calling for the question needed a “second,” and a two-thirds vote to pass. The attorney then declared the motion which called for the question dead for lack of a second. I then asked for the floor, but before the mayor recognized me, Terry Briere called “second”, and the mayor recognized her “second” even though the motion was already dead.
While I rightfully should have had the floor, I did not make a fuss because I knew the motion would not get two-thirds of the council’s approval after the majority had all just been called idiots.
So, we took a vote on the “call for the question,” which predictably received three yes votes, and four no votes…my colleagues were ready to let me finish my comments. But instead of declaring the motion dead, the mayor asked the clerk to determine whether she had the necessary two-thirds vote to end debate! I guess the math got away from her…she was not sure if 3/7 was as high as 2/3! The clerk sighed and said, no, the motion did not get two-thirds of the council’s support. At this point my patience was growing thin, and I asked for the floor one more time. The mayor, looking angrily frustrated, panned around the council seemingly looking for some way she could change the situation so that I would not be allowed to speak….I felt like if there were a fire alarm lever behind her she may have pulled it. I asked again for the floor, pointing out I had now counted four times in a row that she refused to recognize me even though the majority of council members would have liked to hear what I had to say five minutes earlier. Crestfallen, she finally recognized me “…Misssterrrr Cooorrrrman…”
I kept my comments brief, pointing out that none of the council were idiots, and that all all seven of us have made valuable contributions to contract language in the past. We can improve these contracts, and give service to the taxpayers, merely by the seven of us taking a look at them in our council packets. This was not an issue of winning or losing power so much as a way to use eight elected officials to the taxpayers full advantage. Toni Nelson then clarified that she had not meant to call us idiots, and Don’s motion to review the contracts passed 5 to 2 on a roll-call vote. Yay!
For those of you who watched the council meeting Monday night, where Councilman Persson asked that council begin reviewing and approving all the city contracts between $20,000 and $50,000 in value, here are the RCWs that govern. Marcie Palmer, Denis Law and I all backed Don, as Don pointed out that the mayor’s office has been approving 50 of these a year, adding up to anywhere from one million to two and a half million dollars. As chair of Finance, Don wanted direct oversight of this spending, something that councilmembers Terri Brier and Dan Clawson did not want council to have. Warning: Possibly BOR-ING to those who don’t like legalese…
Again, here are the RCWs:
READ MORE »
There will not be a council meeting tomorrow night because it is the fifth Monday of the month. Instead, most of us will be attending Marcie Palmer’s campaign open house at Councilman Don Persson’s beautiful home on Renton Hill. You are all invited to join us!
It will be a terrific event, and will give everyone a chance to get to know Marcie better if they have not had an opportunity to visit with her yet.
Here is the invite off of her website:
Renton Citizens to Re-Elect Marcie Palmer Open House
Monday, July 30th, 2007 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm
I am asking you to join me and my campaign team–Renton Citizens to Re-Elect Marcie Palmer–at an open house being sponsored by the campaign at the home of Don and Vicky Persson on Monday, July 30th, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Stop by for some light refreshments and take a moment to meet with me and let me know what issues facing Renton are important to you. This information will be invaluable to me as I continue my campaign to retain my seat on the Renton City Council.
Don and Vicky live on Renton Hill at 538 Renton Avenue South. Parking is down the alley at the rear of the house. You can reach us at their place the day of the open house at 206-579-8804.
There’s nothing to bring (but your financial support of my campaign is always appreciated). I look forward to seeing you and we would greatly appreciate it if you plan on attending to please let us know by July 23rd by sending an e-mail to info@Palmer2007.com.
and Renton Citizens to Re-Elect Marcie Palmer
For more information visit www.marciepalmer.com