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Letters: Keeping the public's records public

June 22, 2013

Re "State backs off public records plan," June 21

Gov. Jerry Brown was right to withdraw his proposal to allow local government agencies not to comply with key provisions of the California Public Records Act. When I was the Los Angeles County district attorney from 1992 to 2000, my office received many public record act requests from reporters, public organizations and private citizens. They were often viewed as burdensome and potentially embarrassing.

But clearly this law is a crucial part of the checks and balances that any vibrant democracy needs. No doubt the proposed changes would have made it easier for local government agencies to successfully play "hide the ball" with legitimate requests for public records.

With the changes, small governmental agencies that don't often make news but deal with millions in taxpayer dollars could have simply announced their intentions not to comply with public record act requests. Larger governments such as the city and county of Los Angeles would have ultimately wound up not disclosing the records that members of the public deserve to see.

Democracy would have suffered if Brown pushed ahead with his proposal.

Gil Garcetti

Los Angeles

I have long maintained that government by proposition was poor public policy. Thus, I have never signed a petition to place a proposition on the ballot, and I can count on one hand the number of propositions for which I have marked "yes" in my 50 years as a voter.

However, had the governor gone forward with his malefic legislation to reduce the public's access to basic government records that have long been used to scrutinize the actions of elected officials, I would have not only signed the inevitable petition for its repeal, I would have also enthusiastically circulated it and voted "yes" on the ballot measure.

At a time when we have many examples of serious wrongdoing by government agencies at all levels, denying citizens access to public records is more than Faustian; it's corrupt.

Carolyn Magnuson

Long Beach

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