A victory for openness

  • Posted: Saturday, May 11, 2013 12:36 a.m.

Laurels to a bill that would require public bodies to record the meetings they hold behind closed doors. Local Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren both voted “aye” Thursday on House Bill 870, which calls for boards to create audio recordings, or video with audio, and to keep the recordings on hand for two years. Once the matter under discussion in the executive session becomes moot, the recording could be made available to the public, except information that falls under attorney-client privilege, personnel confidentiality or public safety. That does not leave a lot, frankly, but it’s a step forward. On Monday, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the legislation in response to similar action by the the N.C. Association of County Clerks. The clerks would probably bear the burden of making and storing recordings for all elected and appointed public boards. For that, they can blame their bosses. This legislation would not have come up if the public had full confidence that officials strictly follow guidelines for discussing certain matters behind closed doors.

Dart to the “perils of isolation,” as described by The News & Observer recently. Researchers with the AARP Foundation have pinpointed social isolation as one of the factors that can lead to catastrophe for older people. Housing, income and hunger are the other factors, and they might be easier for people to overcome than the fact that they have no one with whom to live. The N&O piece attributed the rise in social isolation to “the flood of baby boomers, many of whom have divorced, never married or will outlive spouses.” Fortunately, today’s retirees often can and do remain much more active than their parents or grandparents could in later years. And they have organizations like the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center where they can do everything from join a computer club to sign up for a group bus trip to Asheville.

Laurels to the notion of tying time limits and/or work requirements to public housing. Believe it or not, this effort to end the cycle of dependency comes from President Obama’s budget, according to the Wall Street Journal. It calls for “substantial expansion” of the program under which 39 of the nation’s 3,200 housing authorities have the power to set restrictions on residents that promote self-sufficiency. Public housing was never intended to be a permanent residence for anyone, but people tend to stay a long time — an average of 20.7 years in New York City, for example. As a result, waiting lists are long and families who suddenly find themselves in need of shelter have to turn elsewhere.

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