Special Interests Aren't Us

RECEIVED Wed., May 10, 2006

Dear Editor,
    As one of the supporters “unconcerned with substance,” and part of the “small, insider, special-interest group” promoting these amendments [“Page Two,” May 5] – and a “union buster” to boot [Endorsements, May 5], I hope you will indulge this response. My “special interest group” is the ACLU. I joined others to draft an open-government amendment that would help end secrecy across a number of key areas of city life.
    When people say “special-interest groups,” they usually mean groups that have a self-interest in the issues at stake. Props. 1 and 2 are supported by public interest and environmental groups. Do we want to end the secrecy surrounding police misconduct, tax abatements, and development projects? Yes. Does that make us special interests? No.
    Proponents – very concerned about substance – carefully drafted an amendment that will, within the legal framework of Texas open-government laws, open up information of keen public interest. Open-government law is very granular. In order to address a specific process or document, you have to talk about it specifically – and this amendment does so. It is substantive, specific, and will indeed result in an open City Hall.
    Finally, the ACLU has been accused by the police association of “union busting,” but I'm sorry to hear that charge from the Chronicle. We grant police officers the authority to arrest us, hold a gun on us, and use the full force of government's intrusive power. We must be able to hold our police force to the highest standards of accountability.
    We are not “union busters” for taking the position that the next police contract negotiations (where the city negotiated our current oversight system) should be conducted in public, nor for believing that misconduct records should be open to the same extent they are at the majority of other Texas cities. These are reasonable positions, taken after long experience negotiating with the police association on these very issues.
Kathy Mitchell
   [Editor's note: ACLU Central Texas chapter president Kathy Mitchell helped draft Proposition 1 and is the treasurer of the Clean Water Clean Government PAC supporting Props. 1 and 2.]
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