The Role of the Press in Transparent Governing

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March 5
Women’s City Club

Photos are here

Attention citizen journalists: Stand up and start a news blog to shine a light on local government, or share your information and news tips with a contact at a trusted local newspaper, radio, television station, or online magazine. At the very least, just show up to comment and ask questions.

That was the message from renowned journalists and communications authorities in a panel discussion on the topic “Let the Sunshine In: The Role of the Press in Transparent Governing,” at the March 5, 2015, League Day.

We have become curators of our own news in an age of shrinking newspapers and expanding Internet communications, said Val Zavala, moderator of the panel and vice president of news and public affairs at KCET and anchor of SoCal Connected.

“Citizen reporters have changed the landscape,” said Ann Erdman, former public information officer for the City of Pasadena for twenty-one years. She sees a need for a responsible citizen blog in Pasadena to counter the gadflies and conspiracy theorists found on some local blogs. “Meanwhile, news consumers need to do their homework,” she said.

Anyone has access to public documents, said Karen Foshay, an award-winning investigative reporter now with Al Jazeerra News Network’s newsmagazine America Tonight. Two major obstacles, she said, are knowing what to ask for and the cost, which can be as high as $6,000, and $800 is standard in Los Angeles.

Erdman gasped, saying that violates the California Public Records Act. She said a big part of her job as public information officer had been to educate city officials and staff about that act and how to provide clarification and accurate information.

At the same time, public pressure can produce results, said Noelia Rodriguez, chief communications officer for Metro Los Angeles public transportation system and partner with Caltrans. The 710 Freeway report is an example. Citizen efforts and those of Assemblymember Chris Holden, she said, sped up the new report.

As for citizen journalists, Pasadena Media offers classes and has a studio for their use.
“Everyone can be a citizen journalist if they choose,” said Keri Stokstad, CEO for the nonprofit operating company overseeing the City of Pasadena’s cable access television stations. KPAS, she said, is 100 percent government; the Arroyo Channel is 100 percent for the public.

But what’s a news consumer do who doesn’t have time to “dig”?

Foshay recommended public radio, PBS, KCET, and respected local newspapers.

Erdman praised the online newsmagazine Pasadena NOW and the blogs Hometown-Pasadena.com and ColoradoBoulevard.net.

Rodriguez said, “E-mail can get you directly to the reporter.”

Stokstad suggested Crown City News, a show on the Arroyo Channel.

Zavala, in conclusion, recommended: “Show up and start a buzz in the community.”

—Jackie Knowles

Free Public Forum on Climate Change

ClimateChange color

The Natural Resources Committee sponsored its Fourth Annual Climate Change Forum on Saturday, March 21. About fifty people attended the meeting at Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church. There were three speakers and copious refreshments for all. The LWV-PA was the lead organizer, and there were nine co-sponsors including the Green Council at Neighborhood Church.

The first speaker was Leesa Nayudu, who is the Power Resource Planning Manager at Pasadena Water and Power. She described the current sources of Pasadena’s electricity and their future plans. They are in the middle of a major update of their Integrated Resources Plan (IRP). They are considering several scenarios to get off coal and to increase renewables. They should have a draft IRP plan in the next couple of months, and there will be a public meeting to get public input. She told us that currently 45 percent of Pasadena’s power comes from the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah, but 89 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from that plant. They plan to phase out power from that plant by 2027 or possibly sooner.

The second speaker was Laura Crane, Director for the California Renewable Energy Initiative, for The Nature Conservancy. She has been part of a solar energy task force that has been identifying the most favorable places in the Western deserts to site solar plants to minimize damage to the delicate ecosystems. They have successfully worked with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which will include environmental factors in the permitting process for solar plants. The Nature Conservancy would like to site solar in areas that have already been degraded—some 300,000 acres.

The third speaker was Rob Haw from the Citizens Climate Lobby. He described how a carbon fee and dividend approach can quickly reduce our carbon emissions while creating jobs and increasing the GDP. He described how a fee would be charged on fossil fuels at the place where they come out of the ground (or where they are imported into the country). This fee would be put into a trust fund, and 100 percent of the revenue would be returned to households in the United States. Border adjustment would be used to level the international trade playing field between nations.

Near the end of the meeting we all filled out a one-page form to estimate our carbon footprint. It included five of the major ways we emit carbon dioxide—flying, electricity use, natural gas use, food (eating), and driving. This was an exciting meeting filled with actionable information.


—Rody Stephenson, Natural Resources Committee