Schwarzenegger – The Desert Sun

Copyright 2004, The Desert Sun

Schwarzenegger keeps his word, opens calendar to media
His willingness to open records is a public service

(The Desert Sun 12/28/04) — In one of the most straightforward moves of his one-year tenure as governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has opened his calendar from his first year in office to let the public peek at his appointment book.

None of his predecessors ever agreed to such scrutiny. Schwarzenegger’s move bodes well for the public’s access to government.

It shows what you’d expect a governor’s appointment book to reveal – meetings, meals, phone calls and conference calls. The names of those attending the meetings and the topics of discussion aren’t as detailed as we’d hoped, but it’s a lot more than the public has been given before.

The calendar shows he met with international dignitaries, local labor leaders, corporate interests and key political figures.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, made a good point when he told The Associated Press that, “It’s hard to fully assess what we have here because we don’t know what we do not have.”

True, but it’s still a great first step. It provides a foundation on which to build.

His willingness to open his appointment book is wholly appropriate given his vocal support of Proposition 59, a state constitutional amendment requiring the meetings of government bodies and writings of public officials and agencies be open to public scrutiny. Voters overwhelmingly – 83 percent – approved the measure on Election Day, sending a clear signal that they want more access to government.

In the wake of the victory of the ballot measure, The California First Amendment Coalition, a group of journalists and civic activists formed in 1988, asked Schwarzenegger to release all his appointment calendars, schedules and meeting logs since taking office last Nov. 17.

Previous California governors have refused to release detailed appointment logs. In the 1980s, the Los Angeles Times sued to obtain the schedules of former Gov. George Deukmejian. The state Supreme Court rejected the request in 1991. The justices said releasing the information could jeopardize a governor’s security and interfere with government’s deliberative process. Their decision exempted the governor’s schedules and calendars from the 1968 California Public Records Act.

A California appeals court cited the same argument five years later to refuse a similar request from the Los Angeles Times for records from Gov. Pete Wilson regarding his appointment of an Orange County supervisor.

Part of the goal of Proposition 59 is to overturn that 1991 Supreme Court ruling.

Such records are important for the public to know what its leaders are doing.

Public disclosure is the foundation of democracy.

People have a right to know what’s going on in their government.

It’s encouraging to see Schwarzenegger give the people this insight.