Our constitution begins with three words that sum up how we should govern, "We the People." The first amendment makes clear the role of freedom of speech and the press, this requires access to government meetings and to information. My career as a journalist shows my dedication to sharing information and listening to people and I promise to continue this as your representative. I will propose updates to the state's Sunshine Law and promise to maintain active communication with the community.
Virginia's Sunshine Laws requires open public meetings and allows for press coverage. COVID-19 has shown that this is not enough and that technology now offers greater access and citizen participation via livestreaming meetings that include two-way audio and messaging.
I will propose legislation that requires all City and County public meetings to be livestreamed and allow for remote citizen input to all public body meetings. These meetings will include supervisors, council, school board, and other committees doing public business. This would also include other public bodies such as agencies or authorities that are financed by state and local tax dollars for the pubic good such as jails, city and county service authorities, and planning districts.
This will empower people to participate and be aware of issues in their communities as well has providing feedback. In some areas news coverage of meetings has been reduced and there is even a greater burden for the public to stay informed on their own.
There should be no restrictions on the press or public to have access to record, photograph, or capture video during public meetings.
There should be very few reasons for elected leaders to not provide access to their decision making process and hear from interested parties.
Meeting agendas and minutes should also be provided in a timely manor. Agendas should be made available to the public at the same time they are to the public body and at least two business days before the meeting. There can be exceptions due to emergencies or specific especial exceptions. If a known closed meeting is planned during or after a public meeting a description must state why there is an exception for this meeting not being public. Within two business days materials presented to the board, such as slides, documents, and must will be made available to the public along with a list of votes taken and how members voted. Minutes from the past meeting should be made public within two business days to the public after they have been adopted.
As a photo journalists I was often called out at public meetings and events. Once at a city council meeting the president asked the police chief to remove me and if I didn't leave arrest me. I told the chief I might be back to be arrested if my editor gave me permission. Unfortunately, he did not and to this day I regret not forcing that access issue.
Personally I will maintain an active social media feed to inform and to receive feedback on issues.