Monday, March 07, 2011

Salt Lake Tribune: GRAMA Getting Run Over by Fear of Transparency - Multiple Updates

Criticism of HB477 spreads far beyond Utah over the weekend

Added Bonus:
Check out the legislative majority's "pained weekend attempts" to justify, ratiionalize and defend their HB477 tyrannical action

New Update(s):
We'll definitely be standing by in rapt fascination, to see what happens next, and will most certainly "be happy to post our continuing anti-tyranny updates to this WCF article until the cows come home"

By: Curmudgeon

The SL Trib has an interesting article up this morning on the reaction around the nation to the Utah Republican Party's rejection of transparency and open government:
Here are just a few of the highlights:

Let’s be real,” [Chip]Stewart, a media law professor at Texas Christian University, said in a Tweet on Saturday, “what’s happening in Utah is more of a threat to democracy than anything in Wisconsin or under Obama; we must be transparent!”

Point after point, Utah’s record laws are going to be more backward than a Third World country’s,” David Cuillier, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Arizona, said Sunday. “That’s not hyperbole.”

“It’s gotta be a lobbyist’s fantasy,” said Charles N. Davis, a University of Missouri professor specializing in open-government laws. “ ‘Give me your cell phone number, Mr. Legislator, and we can have a private text conversation 24/7, even if you’re on the floor.’ ”

“To be clear,” the [Student Press] Law Center added, “this bill is about protecting the ability to govern corruptly and about nothing else.”

That's just a sampling. The full article is well worth a read.

Added Bonus Editor's Addendum: And whatever you do, gentle readers, don't miss the legislative majority's pained weekend attempts to justify, rationalize and defend their tyrannical HB477 action via what are rapidly (and sadly) becoming Utah's top two "official government pro-tyranny spin sites":
Considering the quality and tone of reader comments under each article, we're wondering whether our arrogant Utah GOP legislators may have finally succeeded in "jumping the shark" with the heretofore asleep Utah electorate.

So what say our gentle readers about all this?

Update 3/7/11 1:58 p.m.: Does a sign of the bright heat and light of lumpencitizen-compelled anger at Utah gummint suddenly arise on horizon? Looks like there's some serious neoCON backpedaling going on here. Will the Corporatist GOP Morons in the state legislature come back to reality, in re HB277? Somethin's definitely shakin' at the moment in Utah Gummint. Read this hot-off-the-press SLTrib story to learn all about it:
Remember: "Cockroaches don't like the light of day, and will scurry away when you pick up whatever it was they were hiding under." - anon

Don't think for a moment that the frenzied torrent of mail messages and angry Facebook comments isn't helping to make the tyrants in the Utah legislature take at least a little pause in their anti-democratatic obsessions.

We'll definitely be standing by in rapt fascination, to see what happens next.

Update 3/7/11 3:00 p.m.: In an earlier comment, Gentle Reader Blackrulon wondered whether the Standard would continue to beat the drum on the HB 477 issue. Happily, SE Editorial Page Editor Doug Gibson has already answered that question with this brand-new and fierce Political Surf Blog article, published just a few minutes ago:
Additionally, we learn from Curmudgeon that the St-Ex also published this exceptionally powerful Charles N. Davis guest op-ed piece within the last hour or so:
Great to se the SE continuing to mercilessly hammer the Utah legislative tyrants on this. We'll also add that we'll be happy to post continuing anti-tyranny updates to this ever-expanding WCF article until the cows come home.

Update 3/7/11 3:45 p.m.: Hmmm... According to Paul Rolly via Curmudgeon, it appears that the Utah Fascist pro-HB 477 Coalition may be suddenly falling apart:
Keep checking back. At the current pace, who knows? We'll probably have another dozen or so great anti-tyranny articles linked within the next coupla minutes.

Update 3/7/11 6:27 p.m.: This just in from the SLTrib website:
What a Steaming Crock! Ignore the inaccurate headline. According to the actual Trib story, the legislature isn't really "recalling HB 477," but rather the ever-slimy "Senate President Michael Waddoups" [says] "the move is [merely] to allow lawmakers delay the effective date of HB477 for a few months," so that the ever-honorable state legislature can fix the current half-baked legislation (and so the present public furor will die down, of course).

As old Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons."


Danny said...

Wow, what a great article from Nate Carlisle from the SL Trib. Really great work.

Scott Schwebke, assuming he still has a flicker of intelligence and motivation left, and assuming further that the Standard Examiner is still so hard up for cheap reporters that they haven't fired him yet, should read this article to have a sense of what newspaper reporters do for a living, as opposed to what hackneyed suck ups like Schewbke himself do for a living.

And yes, how corrupt can you get? If you wanted a caricature of a bloated, stupid, corrupt, altogether disgusting slimebag politician, could you find anything more representative of it than John Dougall, the very sight of whom sickens me?

And could you come up with any more corruption-insulating law than this GRAMA-gutting?

As far as Herbert, give me a break. He is the Chief Priest of the corrupt Utah Sanhedrin, fully beholden to the slugs who run this appalling state.

There is one, and only one, solution. Vote them all out! You cannot reform corruption by re-hiring it year in and year out.

Same for Godfrey.

Curmudgeon said...


So far as I know, most stories like this one are assigned to reporters. I think probably the Trib news editors decided national reaction would be a good matter to report on and put a reporter on it. If the SE editors did not, your beef is with them, not the reporter you mention [whose beat, in any case, is Ogden City government, not the Utah legislature's bizarre antics and the Utah Republican Party's campaign against open government, accountable government and transparent government].

blackrulon said...

Curm- The S-E printed their own editorial about the GRAMA restrictions bill. The question is whether or not this was a one time response or will they continue to cover the story and national reaction and repercussions to the bill. I would like the S-E(dreamer that I am) to investigate whether or not the lobbyist for the city had any input in this bill. Godfrey has previously complained about researching GRAMA requestions and as Dan S. can testify has ignored or delayed with all possible actions any legimate response to requests for ingormation. Will the S-E follow up with stories and editorials on this law or admit that they do not wish to ber a advocate for transperency in government.

Danny said...


Once again, you make statements that while true, are irrelevant.

The article from Nate Carlisle is an example of the good work that good reporters do ... as opposed to the lazy and incurious Scott Schwebke, who only prints what Godfrey hands him then goes back into his stupor.

The comparison is between good reporting and hack reporting, not a question of whether the SE should have covered something or not.

The point, again, is there are reporters out there. They even has some at the Standard Examiner. But Schwebke is not one of them.

Darla J. said...

I really do not know what all of the fuss is about. We are talking about elders in Zion, by and large. You seriously dont want to waste tax payer dollars chasing these upstanding elected officials around as though you thought they were petty criminals out on parole?
The minute of a legislators communication have never been available, but now that we have all of these wonderful tools, we have to use them to stalk our every legislators move?
Could you imagine the constitution being written under these circumstances? Making law is a very serious business, and the public has designated input times, and have redress at the polls, and can assist and advise their representatives though personal contact.
All of these grama requests come from professional hassle the legislator folks, like the sierra club and citizens for open and accountable government, who make millions for their leaders by slowing down the wheels of government for no good purpose, and cost the tax payer millions in un-needed law suits.

Sure, truly public communications should be available to those with a need to know, such as reputable news papers.
but not every one with tax exempt status and one bone to pick.

Waste full and frivolous. Just go vote at the polls, and let the men do their work here in utah.

Britney Spears said...

Yes. Honestly, I think we should just trust our our elected officials in every decision that they make and we should just support that.

Curmudgeon said...


You wrote: "I would like the S-E(dreamer that I am) to investigate whether or not the lobbyist for the city had any input in this bill. "

So would I. Particularly like to know if Hizzonah's pet [tax paid] city lobbyist suggested any particular language be put in the GRAMA gutting bill that might be especially helpful to Hizzonah in stonewalling those asking questions about what's going on in city government. Remember, it was a GRAMA request that turned up Administration emails about laundering grant money through UTA so the City Council wouldn't find out it was being spent on a gondola matter.

Problem is, if Hizzonah's pet [tax paid] city lobbyist isn't talking, and Hizzonah isn't, and there's no way to get at the documents, what's the SE going to have to report on, unless it can find a whistle-blower, which is unlikely.

Broader question might be: why has the SE been largely AWOL over the past few years using GRAMA to unearth documents involving city government that the Administration has not been forthcoming about producing?

Danny said...

Holy cow, Darla J.

You're the staffer for John Dougall, aren't you?

You say "truly public communications should be available to those with a need to know, such as reputable news papers [sic]"

And who gets to decide what is a "truly public" communication? The government? Moreover, it is precisely those documents that are not necessarily in public release that tell the story we need to know.

And since when is the only legitimate need to know coming from a corporate news outlet? Do not members of the public have a right to know?

And do we not need information to go to the polls?

Jerry said...

I would like to know how this bill was drafted and who was involved - Ogden City lobbyist or not.

RudiZink said...

Smart take, Danny! And in that connection, here's another excellent SLTrib story, which reveals that average citizens are by far the most reliant users of GRAMA:

Public relies on open-records laws more than the media

So who gets burned wost by the HB477 travesty?

The average concerned Utah citizen, that's who!

Curmudgeon said...


Yup. So would I. Particularly since the head of the Senate made no bones about their keeping it secret until Thursday, and then ramming it through in 48 hours before constituents could let their legislators know what they thought of the idea.

That's apparently the Utah Republican model for legislative due diligence. Keep it secret until the last minute, then ram it through before constituents find out what's happening and have a chance to weigh in. And all to limit government transparency and accountability, which seem to be new major policy goals of the Utah Republican Party.

That seems to be what "conservatism" has come to mean here in Zion: no accountability, no transparency, no open government and no legislative due deliberation.

They must be so proud.

Anyone asked Utah's two putative presidential candidates where they stand on this? What's Romney got to say? Would he have vetoed it as governor? Would Huntsman? Anyone asked them yet?

Dorrene Jeske said...

Darla, you stated: “All of these grama requests come from professional hassle the legislator folks, like the sierra club and citizens for open and accountable government, who make millions for their leaders by slowing down the wheels of government for no good purpose, and cost the tax payer millions in un-needed law suits.” ….. “Waste full and frivolous. Just go vote at the polls, and let the men do their work here in utah.”

Citizens like you and those who are apathetic allow elected officials to succumb to the power endowed upon elected officicals and to become corrupt.

HB 477 is despicable and terrible legislation. Those legislators who voted for it should be held accountable for disregarding the rights and freedoms of their constituents allowed by the Constitution. They need to face the contempt of their neighbors and constituents,

They did not just update a process that is alledgedly outdated because of the changes in communication tools to protect their privacy, but it allows them to operate in secracy and to unwisely spend taxpayer money, pass legislation that benefits them and their supporters – in other words, it promotes corruption in government agencies. If they wanted to just update the GRAMA law, many aspects of HB 477 are unnecessary and overkill. We definitely need to go to the polls and vote in such a way as to clean these corrupt legislators out of office.

Jessica said...

Danny and Rudi-
You're correct. The news media has largely focused on the bill's impacts on the legislature and the news media. But these changes affect the average citizen who attempts to get information more so than news organizations and the changes apply to all gov't agencies - not just the legislature.

Curmudgeon said...

To those here wondering if the SE's strong editorial against gutting the GRAMA law was a one-time thing, please note the SE has just posted an excellent op-ed guest commentary by Prof. Charles N. Davis, Associate Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Davis is a former national Freedom of Information Chair for the Society of Professional Journalists.

Here's the lead:

"Utah left the national freedom of information movement on March 4. If HB477 is signed into law, it's no stretch to say that there will now be 49 state public record laws -- and Utah's pending deformity."

Congrats to the SE for getting this timely piece up on its website so quickly. Good work, guys. Keep it up.

craig41 said...

so now they've delayed it, will they fix it?

Curmudgeon said...


On the assumption [yet to be established on the evidence] that the GRAMA statue could use some tweeking, the proper way to do it would be for the Wadduops Gang and the Dee Gang to agree to withdraw the bill from the governor's desk, and to appoint an intersession joint committee to look into the matter, to take testimony from the press and public, and to draft a bill tweeking what needs to be tweeked for submission to the next legislature.

But Wadduops says that while he may be willing to withdraw the bill for a bit, he still wants it passed this session. I suspect all he's intending to do is withdraw it briefly in hopes he and his cronies in the Dee Gang in the House can slather enough lipstick on the pig so the governor can be prevailed upon to pet it.

So far, neither Waddups nor Dee has displayed any interest in doing things the right way: interim joint committee to prepare a bill for the next session to tweek whatever the committee, after hearing from the press and public and their colleagues, decide needs to be tweeked.

craig41 said...

ya, that syncs with what i'm hearing, recall it, remove the effective immediately portion, then . . . ?

the cynic in me thinks they're just waiting for the outcry to die down and then they'll let the same bill become law, but hopefully i'm wrong and they'll make an honest attempt to improve the bill.

Curmudgeon said...


It makes very little sense to me for the House and Senate to amend the bill to delay its going into effect for a few months, so they can hold the hearings they should have held before they passed it in the first place, and then to amend by means of an expensive summer special session.

What's the point of passing a law now they agree will have to be amended by special session in a few months? And how is that in any way consistent with the principles of fiscal conservatism Waddoups and Dee and the rest keep insisting is one of their guiding legislative principles?

Curmudgeon said...

Paul Rolly reports in the SL Trib that Republican legislators are hearing from Republicans opposing the gutting of the GRAMA law, and hundreds of Republicans have been urging Gov. Herbert to veto it. Rolly's column is here.

From the column:

The most visible GOP backlash came from Jeremy Votaw, last fall’s Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk, whose father Rick Votaw is vice chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party. Votaw began an on-line petition drive Monday asking Herbert to veto the bill. Within four hours, he had 750 signatures.

And Rolly reports, one Republican opposed to passage of HB 477 is Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka. Rolly also reports some legislators who took a lead in advocating passage of HB 477 are now bailing on it.

craig41 said...

oh i agree completely, yet the justification from the leg. throughout the process was that they would address any problems with the bill after it's been enacted. it seems that getting it right the first time would have been all around better.

personally i'd rather see them scrap it and wait a year, and perhaps after they've done that they won't be so quick to overreach the second time around.

Curmudgeon said...

Here's how a legislator described the new plan to one of his constituents, Dan S., this very day:

The plan, apparently, is for the governor to go ahead and sign HB 477 but with the amendment that it wouldn't take effect until July 1. Then the legislature would promise to try to work out a compromise with other stakeholders and further GRAMA amendments that might undo some of what HB 477 does. Of course, if this compromise doesn't work out, the full force of HB 477 would take effect mid-year.

It's a sham.

Dorrene Jeske said...

I watched Fox news last night and I got the impression that the "recall" is a "carrot" to appease the masses for the moment. In July we will be stuck with HB 477 as it is now. It was pathetic when one of our poor beat-up legislators was interviewed and he complained that the text message from his family was private and should remain private. These guys are paranoid to the nth degree! I've never heard of a GRAMA request that asked for private family information -- requests are for information on a specific topic dealing with something a specific public entity is dealing with that is of public interest. Who gives a d_ _ _ what a spouse says to a legislator? I say that we elect new legislators who aren't so paranoid and arrogant and thumb their noses at the people who elect them and pay their wages!

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