Opinion – 1/24/2003

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

The Panolian Editorial : January 24, 2003

For additional opinions and articles,
pick up the 1/24/03  issue of The Panolian

McBride Bill Will Strengthen Open Meet Law

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It’s nice to see that Dist. 10 State Rep. Warner McBride has introduced House Bill 454 which adds enforcement provisions to the state’s Open Meetings Act.

If passed, the legislation will amend the current law to include an individual penalty of up to $100 each should a court find a public body has willfully and knowingly violated the law.

That isn’t much money but at least it is something – and it carries the message such behavior isn’t acceptable – legally or morally.

I hope that Rep. McBride will be joined by the rest of our delegation in making sure the sun shines on all our governmental meetings. Making more information available in records and reducing the exemptions would be nice, too.

I’m concerned because there are efforts afoot to add even more exemptions to Freedom of Information laws.

That’s according to the legislative report prepared by Barbara Powell of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information Legislative Committee.

You can help by letting your lawmakers know you want openness and accountability of government bodies.

As I said before, I was shocked to find out that taxpayers can’t attend the meetings of the board of Tri-Lakes Medical Center even though the taxpayers own the facility.

Obviously the special interest group(s) behind that exemption didn’t concern themselves too much with the taxpayers.

On another subject, I was disturbed by an article in the latest issue of Mother Jones magazine.

Well, actually, I’m usually disturbed by many of the articles it contains. The real truth of human, environmental and other atrocities in our country and around the world can sadden one.

Often the stories reveal whose pockets are getting lined … in the oil industry, for instance.

For those who have ever read school lunch menus – for anywhere in the country – it’s obvious there are tons of fat in the food served.

While many food service directors do try to trim it down, their hands are somewhat tied because of the government commodities school districts use to save money.

The article told how farm subsidies – and I normally am on the side of the farmer – are paid for the vast quantities surplus meat, dairy and other products that end up on school lunch tables.

Meanwhile, this week Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson announced new programs to help fight fat. One will involve a 12-city weight loss event.

Sometimes I wonder if our government’s left hand knows what the right hand is doing.

Go figure.

(Kate Dickson can be reached by email at: editor@panolian.com)