Collin College Fall

Public records act badly needs repairs

by | Mar 7, 2019 | Opinion

It’s your money. You deserve to know how it was spent — and whether you got what was promised. Yet the Texas Supreme Court’s 2015 Boeing decision has been contorted to try to block taxpayers from seeing the details of hundreds of government arrangements with private firms, including a power plant contract for the most expensiveproject in Denton’s history, a headhunter’s list of Austin city manager candidates and, most famously, the price tag for a taxpayer-funded Enrique Iglesias concert in McAllen.

Lawmakers have a duty this session to close this gaping hole in the Texas Public Information Act. We urge them to support the bipartisan legislation by Sen. Kirk Watson, (D) Austin, and Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, (R) Southlake, to protect the public’s right to see how their dollars are spent.

The measure, filed as Senate Bill 943 and House Bill 2189, spells out public records protections that should be common sense. When a government agency contracts with a private firm, the public has a right to see the final price tag, the timeline for the work, the essential components of the job and any documentation showing whether the work was properly completed, among other things.

That shouldn’t be too much to ask. But the bill is necessary because the over reaching Boeing decision, arising from a case involving the aerospace giant’s lease at the Port Authority of San Antonio, took vast swaths of government contract information off the table if the private firm objected to its release.

As the Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh recently reported, the Texas attorney general has cited the Boeing ruling in more than 2,600 decisions on records requests, withholding information from the public in the vast majority of cases (though, notably, the AG denied Austin’s efforts to apply the exemption to the 2017 city manager search, albeit a month after the new manager was selected).

If the Boeing decision hacked away public access to information using a machete, Watson’s bill provides a scalpel toproperly carve out only a contractor’s competitive business information. The Texas Association of Business’ objection that SB 943 would jeopardize companies’ “sensitive, confidential proprietary information” is empty bluster: The bill clearly protects businesses from disclosing corporate secrets.

A government of the people cannot operate in the dark, with taxpayers writing blank checks to support work they cannot see. Lawmakers should put the brakes on the runaway train that has been the Boeing decision, and instead welcome taxpayerson board to take a window seat.

 

Reprinted with permission of American Statesman Editorial Board

0 Comments

Public Notice - Subscribe

Related News

The Garden of Eatin’

The Garden of Eatin’

The great thing about growing a lot of your own food is the ability to walk out the back door and pick it. It doesn’t get much fresher than that. If there’s a downside to growing a garden (we had seven garden areas this year), it’s that it seems that most of the...

read more
Verses Versus Verses

Verses Versus Verses

If you’re a Baptist from the South, you’re hoping that if there’s a Pearly Gates pop quiz, the question isn’t, “What’s the third verse to any song in the hymnal?” You won’t know the answer. If you’re laughing right now, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In...

read more
Meat and Greet

Meat and Greet

Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.” – Anthony Bourdain Barbecue is a versatile word. It can refer to an outdoor place to cook meat; to cooking meat; and can also reference a gathering of people for the purpose of serving meat cooked...

read more
Real good eatin’

Real good eatin’

My grandfather called it a “Po Boy Lunch.” That meant we were having leftovers in whatever creative way my grandmother came up with. Recently, I took two biscuits from breakfast and loaded them with smoked brisket, and from the garden, purple onions and jalapeños. A...

read more
Comic Relief

Comic Relief

People use different ways to learn to read. Some folks use the vowels and consonants method. Others memorize how the words look.  I used both, but I had a secret weapon many didn’t know about.  Comic books.  While most kids were having, “Fun with Dick...

read more
35 Texas counties eligible for individual disaster aid

35 Texas counties eligible for individual disaster aid

Residents in a total of 35 Texas counties now qualify for individual disaster assistance following a series of severe storms and flooding that began in late April, The Dallas Morning News reported. “I thank our federal partners and emergency response personnel across...

read more
Texas could face long-term water supply deficit

Texas could face long-term water supply deficit

Texas is facing a reckoning on water that we must address if the state wants to secure its future prosperity. The State Water Plan prepared by the Texas Water Development Board projects that Texas faces a long-term water supply deficit of 6.9 million acre-feet in 50...

read more
Hogging the channels

Hogging the channels

 I have a lot of my grandparents in me. I’m cheap. I also love the Arkansas Razorbacks. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to radio, television, and an Arkansas game. I grew up listening to free radio and watching free television. So, the idea of paying...

read more
Laundry: There’s more than one way to fold

Laundry: There’s more than one way to fold

You would think that there’s only one way to fold towels. But, you’d be wrong. Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, my momma showed me how to fold them, as well as shirts, socks, underpants, and other personal sundries. I assumed that this skillset would carry me all the...

read more
The Lawn Moore

The Lawn Moore

America really is The Land of Opportunity. Even if there’s only one opportunity, and that opportunity is cutting the grass.  Ashdown, Arkansas, was a pretty typical small American town in the 1960s and 1970s.  Kids weren’t just handed things. If we wanted...

read more
Public Notice - Subscribe