Newspaper’s advocacy commended
I am writing this letter to praise the Clayton News Daily in ending 2013 in high fashion with your Nov. 29 edition of your newspaper solely dedicated to open government and how it is the law.
This entire newspaper which had very powerful, insightful, fact-filled, detailed and comprehensive articles on open government, the steps that residents can take if denied access to public records which we have a right to, the battles that your newspaper has had with the city of Forest Park in getting information detailing negotiations to settle the lawsuit which resulted in a settlement of $35,000 given to former councilwoman Karen-Brandee Williams, information on Georgia Sunshine Laws by Georgia’s Legal Expert on the subject attorney David Hudson in the powerful article titled “Government Transparency Begins With Citizen Awareness,” and your hard-hitting editorials titled “Government belongs to thee governed” and “Why government transparency matters” are the kinds of information that the residents of Clayton County need to know and to be empowered when we exert our rights to know what our county government is doing, how they come to make the decisions that they made, and how the taxpayer’s monies are spent.
Your “coup de grace” was the article titled “Executive session: A right or an abused privilege.”
The information provided in the article was so powerful that you extended the theme of it into the new year of 2014 in your article written on Jan. 4 titled “Officials can disclose closed meeting talks” where attorney David Hudson said how elected officials are free to speak about what goes on in executive sessions. He also gave the opinion that the state’s constitution might even compel an elected official to disclose what occurred in a closed-door executive session.
You followed up this great article with one of your own hard-hitting editorials on Jan. 8 titled “Sunshine law expert speaks with authority” where you led off the article stating that attorney David Hudson said there is no legal basis for saying elected officials cannot openly discuss what occurs in an executive session of a local legislative body.
Your newspaper’s articles were so strong and informative that you reported in the column written by government reporter Curt Yeoman on Jan. 8 titled, “Article prompts Jonesboro exec session discussion” how the officials in Jonesboro discussed their use of executive sessions which was prompted by the Jan. 4 article.
This shows how powerful, influential, substantial, significant and relevant the Clayton News Daily is for residents of this county and to all who read your newspaper, including the elected officials in the county who not only read your newspaper, but at least try to look at some of the things that they do and see if they improve on what needs to be improved on or not do the things that they do not need to do which could put them in a negative light with the community and the newspaper that reports on their duties, responsibilities and decisions made on behalf of the Clayton County residents they represent.
Your editorial written Jan. 10 titled, “Loophole legislation violates trust” where you stated the truth when you wrote, “When a city council, county commission or board of education member comes to a meeting, someone makes a motion, another makes a second, then they vote on some significant piece of business with no discussion, no description, no debate, it is obvious they are practicing loophole legislation” and when you wrote “When attorneys instruct their clients on how to deliberate the public’s business in private without technically violating the Sunshine Law, it is obvious there is a total disregard for the public’s right to know” is so very true and correct.
Your editorial on Jan. 15 titled “Why retreat from public? was a great and hard-hitting one where you wrote, “The public is best served by openness, accessibility, transparency and amenability. The more open you are, the more accessible you are, the more public trust you will build. The more you go off on retreats, hide behind the closed doors of an executive session or even whisper to one another during meetings, the more people will be suspicious and the less they will trust you with their business.”
Lastly on the subject of newspaper articles, I want to commend your crime reporter Kathy Jefcoats on the detailed, informative and comprehensive article Jan. 1 titled “Theft-related crimes down by 46 percent” where she highlighted how theft-related crimes in unincorporated Clayton County had dropped by 45.9 percent through November 2013 over 2012’s numbers.
Jefcoats had great quotes from Clayton County Police Chief Greg Porter where he said how he has changed the image and operational philosophies of the police department and how he is proud of the men and women of the police department, and it took a unified effort by each and every one in the department to get them to this point and how over the past 39 months, they have worked diligently to meet the goal of reducing crime.
Jefcoats also educated the reader on the Targeted Investigations Through Analysis Of Networks program and how the Clayton County Police Department uses the program to help track crimes within their four sectors and how the TITAN graphics helps determine how many police officers need to be patrolling a certain area during a certain time of day and where to put the police officers by looking at the types of crimes and the day of the week and the watch where they are being committed.
In your newspaper article written last year on June 12 titled, “News Daily receives prestigious FOI Award” where you wrote that on June 7, the Georgia Press Association honored the Clayton News Daily with the 2013 Freedom Of Information Award, you also wrote that the newspaper received third place honors for Hard News Writing which shows me that even though your newspaper excels in many areas, this is one area that the Clayton News Daily can be even better at.
It is my sincere hope that in 2014, that one of your main focus is to give the residents of Clayton County who read your newspaper more hard-hitting, factual, informative, detailed and comprehensive hard news stories and that if you uncover hard news that our elected officials may not want published because they do not want the residents to be in the know or be knowledgeable and educated, it is my hope that you will print the story because you have three great reporters — Yeomans, Jefcoats and education reporter Johnny Jackson who are seasoned, experienced, and veteran reporters who all know how to write a story and write it well.
We need more hard-hitting stories, we need more hard-hitting editorials and we need the Clayton News Daily to be more hard-hitting period and to always serve and protect the interest of all residents of Clayton County in holding all of our elected officials accountable, answerable and responsible as you said in so many words in your editorial written on Nov. 29 titled, “Government belongs to the governed” where you wrote, “Government does not always know best. In fact, it seldom does. Government cannot be of, by and for the people unless it’s before the people. It should never be forgotten that government belongs to the governed, not the governing.”
The Clayton News Daily is a great newspaper. It is my sincere hope that in 2014, it will be a even greater, more powerful and more mighty one in serving in our best interests and protecting our rights, and serving as our guardians against the elected officials in Clayton County, some of which choose to serve to only benefit themselves and their own selfish, personal and private interest, and to enrich themselves at the expense of the good residents of Clayton County who only want the best for our county.
— Henry H. Anderson IV M.D., F.A.A.F.P.