Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Transparency & Drones (Tuesday LINKS)

While we debate the propriety of killing murderers on death row after decades of due process here in Maryland, our President has been having to answer questions about targeted drone strikes used to kill American citizens in other countries without so much as an evidentiary hearing.  Over the weekend, my former criminal procedure professor, David Cole, published an Editorial in The Washington Post, stating that it is ok for the President not to tell us who he plans to kill, or the mechanism by which that assassination will occur, but in the name of transparency, he must acknowledge when American citizens have been killed by U.S. drones.

Most of our discussions about transparency are quite mundane: Counting days on a calendar to make sure the proper notice of meetings has been given; evaluating whether an agenda topic truly is the subject of legal advice or business negotiation; revealing as much as possible without interfering with the operation of the organization at issue.  But this is mostly peripheral.  The fact of the matter is that transparency concerns are most often taken up by those who believe there is something malicious afoot, and those individuals tend to have some form of conspiracy imagined that is only aided by the fact that certain information is hidden.

Stripped of requirements, regulations, and sunshine laws, transparency is a matter of trust.  Trust between the electorate and their representatives.  How can I trust you to make the right decision if I don't know what information you are basing that decision upon?  That question is behind every transparency issue we face.  We may never agree on what that decision should be, but there is a base understanding that elected and elector should stand on equal footing when evaluating the problem.

In matters of military and defense, that construct is destroyed.  The balance of interests weighs heavily towards concealment.  It has reached a point where most Americans have become jaded to their position in matters of military force.  Somehow, it has become easier to become outraged over $5 million to study the mating habits of koala bears than a $5 million bomb destroying a foreign town filled with innocent civilians.  I guess it all depends on the internet meme in which the information is provided.

I agree with my Professor.  Even in our hands-off, please-don't-tell-me-the-yucky-parts approach to defense policy, including the use of unarmed drones hauntingly hovering over remote towns for months at a time before dropping their fatal load, we should know when one of our own is killed.  And we should know why.  It is a matter of fundamental trust between the government and its people.


Howard County lawmakers and business leaders celebrated the groundbreaking for the Metropolitan Downtown Columbia, yesterday, which will be a $100 million apartment complex with approximately 380 units projected to open in Spring 2014.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just handed the citizens of Baltimore 45 minutes of bad news under the description of "bold reforms": "requiring more city workers to contribute to their retirement fund, charging residents for trash collection, asking firefighters to work longer hours and cutting the city workforce by 10 percent over time."  I imagine that most residents are interested in SRB's promise to cut property taxes by 22% over the next ten years, but the pain will be felt in the short term with the gain left for whomever fills her seat after she is term limited out of office.  I like SRB and I think she does a good job in Baltimore, but this is the second year in a row that I feel she has over-promised in her State of the City address.  Baltimore has plenty of things in need of fixing.  Start small.

Baltimore County provides a lesson in the dangers of referendums on land use.  A failed petition in that jurisdiction brought in $600,000 in contributions, mostly from competing developers, to stop the development of a number of properties.  A Zoning Board may not be the best system in the world, but its the best system I've seen.  Certainly much better than having your competitors beat money out of you in the public square.

Among the Anne Arundel County Republicans looking to fill John Leopold's vacant seat as County Executive, Dan Bongino will not be one of them.  Interestingly enough, Kendall Ehrlich was quoted over the weekend saying that she would be interested with the implication that she was not willing to "try out" for the job and only wanted it if there was no competition.  Needless to say, there is a LOT of competition, with at least three other GOPers going for the number one spot.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: MM raises the alarm over the cut to Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration, which provides recovery assistance to Marylanders with substance abuse problems.  I agree with my fellow blogger that this cut should be reexamined and reversed.

That's all for today.  I don't know about you all, but this gray muggy weather is taking the wind right out of my sails.  Gotta keep on keepin' on!

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!