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Our legislators want privacy. Our newspapers say "nope." (And The Seattle Times ran its first front-page editorial in 110 YEARS to do it.) (Courtesy of Dan Catchpole)
WHY PEOPLE ARE MAD AT OUR LEGISLATORS 😡
It might seem kind of wonky to think about how public records are handled in our state, but it’s SUPER important if you’ve ever appreciated learning about game-changing things going on around you, like this and this and this. So we’re gonna break this whole thing down for you.
What even is a public record?
Public records include everything from public officials’ calendars, emails, text messages, and e-mails to their disciplinary records and birth dates.
Isn’t that stuff private?
Not when you’re a public official, according to Washington State’s Public Records Act, which voters here approved in 1972.
Why’s it so important that these kind of documents aren’t private?
Since we live in a representative democracy, we elect public officials to represent our voices and concerns. Those officials conduct a lot of their business over emails and text messages. When they’re able to hide those documents from their constituents, it makes it harder for us to determine whether they’re actually serving our interests and using their time (and our tax dollars) effectively.
So why’s everyone so upset about this new bill?
Democratic and Republican members of the State House and Senate took just two days — break-neck speed for state officials — to approve a bill that allows them to pick and choose which public records are released to their constituents, a.k.a. all of us. The new bill also keeps secret old records from being publicly released.
Right? And it gets worse: Up until last week’s vote, concerned citizens and reporters have been able to appeal state officials’ refusal to release public records to the courts. This new bill, if passed into law, would prevent them from doing even that.
So why exactly do legislators want this bill passed?
State politicians have said this bill gives them the privacy to do their jobs more effectively and that it would improve government transparency. They’ve also said that individual politicians can always choose to release more information than outlined in the new bill. Local news outlets disagree.
Got more questions? We’ve got more answers. Plus — what you can do if you want to make a difference in all this. (Spoiler alert: call your legislator.)
»» Check out the rest of our public records breakdown at theevergrey.com.
NOW HERE’S WHAT’S GOING ON IN YOUR CITY 🐘
Oh hey, we’re liberal now. Does that seem like old news? Well get this: While Seattle is one of the more liberal cities in the country, conservatives have actually outnumbered liberals across our state — until now. Gallup just found that more people identify as liberals than conservatives in Washington state for the first time since 2008, when they started tracking the numbers. (There are plenty of moderates too, of course, and our state has voted Democratic for years). Also interesting: four other states just flipped from leaning conservative to leaning liberal — including Oregon and California. That makes the whole west coast not only a “blue wall” of Democratic political leadership, but also of liberal ideology. Curious what Seattle’s most liberal and conservative neighborhoods are? Look ‘em up here. (The Seattle Times)
Get artsy. Why produce “Hamlet” on a boring old stage when you can do it in a historic mansion, have a man and a woman play Hamlet simultaneously, and have your audience move around between rooms? Director Julia Sears’ production of the age-old play is one of the highlights in City Arts’ spring arts guide to the city. Other things we’re excited about: This dance performance about what it’s like to be a black man, and this wild a cappella sci-fi musical. Tickets, please. 🎟 (City Arts Magazine)
Making a difference. It’s not every day that someone takes the time to give specific praise to people who are doing awesome things in their neighborhood. But that’s exactly what a writer named Marcus Harden has been up to all month — writing beautiful profiles of people who matter to South Seattle. “He embodies authenticity,” Marcus wrote about Caine Lowery, a teacher at Aki Kurose Middle School. “When she sees wrong or injustice being done, she does not stand by idle,” he wrote about activist Lindsay Hill. As for Jerrell Davis, a mentor who’s been showing up in big ways for young people: He “is one of the most passionate, humble and service-minded advocates for change in the city of Seattle and the nation have ever seen.” (Rise Up for Students)
Here comes the cosplay. This weekend is Emerald City Comic Con, and Curbed has rounded up some comic book shops to visit while the city hits its peak geek. (Curbed Seattle)
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HERE'S WHAT'S COMING UP 📅
🍿 Meet everyone’s favorite “science guy” (Capitol Hill)
🎈 Get hued for Holi, the festival of colors (Bellevue)
💡 Hear from CNN’s Anderson Cooper — few tix left! (Queen Anne)
Going to one of these?
Send us a pic or tag #theevergrey. See more upcoming events (and submit your own) on our events page.
THAT’S IT FOR TODAY 🙌
We’ll see you tomorrow. — The Evergrey