Check the Facts and Get the Story Straight

RECEIVED Wed., Feb. 22, 2006

Dear Editor,
    This week you swallowed a story from Jo Clifton, apparently without checking into it very deeply [“SOS: The Amendment That Didn't Bark,” News, Feb. 17]. Since I was mentioned as one of three nefarious open-government advocates meeting in secret with the city, I must tell you that almost nothing about that tale was true. I did indeed attend a meeting, at the city's invitation, where they were to outline their concerns with the open-government amendment. It would have been rude and unproductive to say no. However, Jo Clifton did not come to City Hall that day, nor did she try to get permission to attend that meeting. We didn't meet in a "room without windows," nor did she ask for comments afterward, because I would have happily given her something to write about.
    I understand from others that she did try and attend another meeting, also set up by the city, with other people some time earlier – and that the city, not the environmentalists, kept her out of that meeting. If the city barred her from this other meeting when she was welcome by those in the meeting, the only story here is that the city should be more open. On that, I hope we can all agree.
    My commitment to open government is long, unwavering, and unconditional. The open-government initiative is a wonderful opportunity for the city to make its own unwavering and unconditional commitment to transparency. Reporters are and always will be a fundamental part of that, but only if they check their facts and get the story straight.
Yours very sincerely,
Kathy Mitchell
ACLU of Texas
President, Central Texas Chapter
   [News Editor Michael King responds: As the story ("SOS: The Amendment That Didn't Bark") indicates, after reading Jo Clifton's story in In Fact Daily and asking her about it, I spoke to Save Our Springs director Bill Bunch. He confirmed the incident but insisted, as I quoted him in the story, that city staff barred Clifton from the meeting. It was Bunch who told me who attended the meeting; if he conflated two meetings into one or I misunderstood him concerning the attendees, I apologize to Kathy Mitchell, but it hardly alters the substance of the story. By "almost nothing about that tale was true," in her retelling appears to be confined to the fact that she didn't play a featured role in the tale. No doubt if Mitchell had been there, she would have defied her colleagues and adamantly rejected any attempt by city officials to bar Clifton from the meeting, and fallen on her open-government sword had they refused.]
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