Subscribe Mothers Day

Public records act badly needs repairs

by | Mar 6, 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

Subscribe RH Love

0 Comments

Order photos

Related News

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
A myth understanding

A myth understanding

In the South, we believed with all of our hearts what we were told when we were children. Even if it was wrong. In the 1960s, the RCA color console TV my family had on Beech Street in Ashdown, Arkansas, could make you go blind. It could if you believed what our mom...

read more
On the road again and again

On the road again and again

Back in the 60s, some American college kids protested the Vietnam War, but mostly, they conducted sit-ins. Few protests were violent. Other American college kids would have contests to see how many of them they could cram into a Volkswagen. Today, some college kids...

read more
Aisle be seeing you

Aisle be seeing you

As a child growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, we had two main grocery stores. Shur-Way and Piggly Wiggly. Or as my dad called it, “Hoggly Woggly.” A trip to the store was like each TV commercial had come to life. Advertising agencies at the time were very good at what...

read more
‘Aggressive’ hurricane forecast for Gulf Coast

‘Aggressive’ hurricane forecast for Gulf Coast

Colorado State University researchers are calling this year’s hurricane season forecast “the most aggressive” ever, the Texas Standard reported. They say there is a 54% chance a hurricane will strike the Texas coast, and a 25% chance it will be major. Justin Ballard,...

read more
Fixer Uppers

Fixer Uppers

Recently, I saw something I haven’t seen in many years. A young man driving a car he was fixing up. It was an older Mustang. By older I mean a 90’s model. The car had spots of primer, there were a few dents, and the exhaust system appeared to be loose. By John Moore...

read more
Solar eclipse means big money to Texas

Solar eclipse means big money to Texas

One economist is calling it “the most profitable 22 minutes in Texas history,” according to the Texas Standard. The total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 is expected to draw up to a million visitors to the Lone Star State, especially in its narrow path of totality....

read more
Texas counties among nation’s fastest growing

Texas counties among nation’s fastest growing

Recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that six of the 10 fastest-growing counties in the United States from 2022 to 2023 were in Texas. According to the Texas Tribune, Kaufman County, just east of Dallas, led the list with a 7.6% increase in new...

read more
Read this. Build a stronger community.

Read this. Build a stronger community.

Saddened. Embarrassed. Determined. These three words evoke distinct feelings and emotions.  In the context of an opinion piece we ran in the paper four and a half years ago, they described the aftermath of a community that lost its newspaper. After 130 years in...

read more
Largest wildfire in state history still raging

Largest wildfire in state history still raging

A wildfire in the Texas Panhandle has consumed more than 1 million acres and as of Sunday was just 15% contained, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service. It is the largest wildfire in Texas history. The Smokehouse Creek Fire is by far the most extensive of...

read more
Order photos