All Press Releases for 01/04/2005

Californians Aware Announces Free Forum, Open To The Public: Raising The Bar For Open Government

"Raising the Bar for Open Government," an all-day law and policy conference for activists, journalists, attorneys and public officials to be held Saturday, January 8 at the Le Bel Age hotel, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd.

CARMICHAEL, California / PR FREE / Jan 04 2005 --
California voters quietly added a government transparency mandate to the state constitution on November 2 by a whopping 83.4-percent margin.

Some are concerned about how that change will affect how city and county lawyers advise their clients, or how public prosecutors view local boards’ and councils’ closed meeting practices, or how journalists and their attorneys push for access to public records.

Some early hints at answers will be sought at "Raising the Bar for Open Government," an all-day law and policy conference for activists, journalists, attorneys and public officials to be held Saturday, January 8 at the Le Bel Age hotel at 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd.

The free program is presented by Californians Aware and co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood and the Los Angeles Press Club.

Up to 4.5 hours in Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credits are being sought for approval. If approved, a participation record will be made available to interested attorneys at the rate of $22 per hour.

Also in focus at the conference:

Local sunshine ordinances give the public more access to government meetings and records than state law requires. But what rights should they seek, how can elected officials’ support be obtained, and what’s involved in drafting the language? Panelists on this question include officials with the city and the county of Los Angeles, those working to promote more sunshine, and a participant in the decade-old San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

First Amendment rights can clash with political, ideological or even judicial priorities; what are the points to bear in mind about initiative signature-gathering that is met with systematic "blocking" by opponents? Or about efforts to remove Christian symbolism from the official landscape? Or about judges’ efforts to resist white-hot media attention to celebrities in court like Michael Jackson?

The NOVA Awards, saluting new stars in open government and First Amendment achievement, to be presented at a 6 p.m. reception at the hotel. Recipients will be Martin Jones and his attorney, Richard Tentler, who sued to challenge secretive practices by the Oxnard City Council; Ana Garcia, veteran investigative journalist for KNBC Channel 4; and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, whose Public Integrity Division enforces open government law under the Ralph M. Brown Act.

PROGRAM (Some unconfirmed participants to be announced later)

9:30 a.m.
Continental Breakfast
10:15 a.m.
Welcome by CalAware President Rich McKee

10:30 a.m. – Noon
Open Government Laws: What Difference Will Prop 59 Make in How We Do Our Jobs?
Attorneys for local government and the media as well as a government reporter discuss past public records and open meetings problems and how the new California constitutional right to open government may affect their approaches.

Moderator: Julia Sylva, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, Los Angeles

• Jennifer Snyder, Deputy District Attorney, Public Integrity Division, Los Angeles
• Dennis Winston, Moskowitz, Brestoff, Winston & Blinderman, Los Angeles
• Susan Seager, Davis Wright Tremaine, Los Angeles
• Rob Greene, LA Weekly

Noon – 1:30 p.m. Lunch on your own

1:45 – 3:15 p.m.
Sunshine Ordinances: Politics, Priorities and Those Devilish Policy Details
Some cities and counties have made a commitment to more transparency than California law mandates. This panel discusses creating the will for change, deciding what changes are needed, and drafting rules that will have the desired effects.
Moderator: Terry Francke, General Counsel, Californians Aware
• Joel Bellman, Deputy to County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles
• Barbara Blinderman, Moskowitz, Brestoff, Winston & Blinderman, Los Angeles
• Rick Knee, San Francisco Sunshine Task Force
• Karen Ocamb, Los Angeles Press Club

3:30 – 5 p.m.
First Amendment Flashpoints: Petition Friction, Church/State Debate, Michael Mania
This panel discusses the problems for constitutional freedoms created by initiative petition "blockers;" what's new and unsettled about federal funding to restore California's missions, the Los Angeles County cross-on-the-seal controversy, and trial court controls on the press and public in the Michael Jackson child molestation proceedings.

Moderator: Patt Morrison, Columnist, Los Angeles Times
• Robert Silverstein, Hill, Farrer & Burrill LLP, Los Angeles
• Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
• Laurie Levenson, Professor of Law, Loyola University School of Law

6 p.m.
Fundraising Reception and NOVA Awards Presentation

For further information contact:
Emily Francke, Executive Director, Californians Aware
(916) 496-6514 or 487-7000; [email protected]

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