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Public issues deserve public discussions

Sierra Sun editorial

The public’s right to know has been compromised by two decisions made on separate issues by the Town of Truckee and the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School – decisions which may be legally correct but nonetheless do not serve their constituencies.

Closed meeting blurs consensus

In a meeting closed to the public July 15, representatives from five public agencies, whose salaries are paid by tax dollars, made a decision which affects the entire town – the decision to end the annual fireworks display at Donner Lake.

Town Manager Steve Wright refused entry to a representative of the Sierra Sun who wished to attend the workshop, stating that it was not open to the public.

He said it was an opportunity for heads of departments to get together and “discuss the issues,” and was not legally a public meeting.

That argument may be legally correct, but is irrelevant to the public, which should have the right to know how the officials involved in this decision came to a consensus, and whether a consensus was truly reached.

Shouldn’t the public have an opportunity to hear what “the issues” are?

By closing the meeting, the town manager closed the eyes and ears of the public and the press, which now both have to rely on interviews after the fact (and a canned press release from the town) to get the gist of what occurred in the workshop.

Some would say that the participants were able to speak more freely without the presence of the press at the meeting. Isn’t that a reason why the press should have been admitted – to hold statements made up to public scrutiny?

If the organizers and participants feared comments made in the meeting could not endure the scrutiny of the public, the entire conclusion of the “workshop” is questionable.

The press release issued by the town claims a consensus was reached to end the fireworks, but no one was there to observe for the public the discussion which led to the consensus.

Do we know these people?

Tahoe-Truckee School District officials recently refused to release the names of finalists for the Superintendent of Schools position, soon to be vacated by retiring Superintendent Vince Deveney.

The district’s claim, which is supported by legal precedent in California, is that the potential harm to the applicants caused by releasing their names outweighs the public interest.

That’s a sharp contrast to neighboring Washoe County School District in Nevada, which recently released the names and detailed backgrounds of the top five candidates for its superintendent position.

After all, if the candidates for a position are of good character and have been performing well in their current jobs why should they fear the release of their names?

Members of the public may know the finalists and may have additional input for the school district to consider.

While it may be acceptable not to release the names of all applicants for the position, the public should be able to review and provide input on the finalists for such an important job.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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