(April 14, 2003) -- Mushrooms are kept in the dark and fed, er, manure. Keeping the public in the dark and feeding them manure -- the "mushroom treatment" -- is a familiar technique used by both government and corporate entities.
It's particularly deplorable when done by government bodies. Too often, they use public money in ways that make it harder than necessary for the public to find out what the public has a right to know.
Los Angeles Times reporter Deborah Schoch did a public a real service (and that is the proper term here) by wading through government compost -- and scooping the competition -- to expose fermenting details about options for expanding the 710 freeway. These options could permanently impact the region and possibly eat hundreds of homes. Her coverage -- from breaking the story to subsequent follow up -- has been awesome and devastating.
In our view, any government official(s) who would condone keeping crucial information about a subject of this magnitude difficult, burdensome and time consuming for the public to obtain shouldn't be in government, period.
Yet as we post this editorial, maps -- that are public records -- showing which peoples' homes could become casualties in the freeway expansion weren't even on the internet. Photos from Iraq are, but maps of detailed L.A. County freeway expansion options aren't.
The Gateway Council demands that the public -- middle class and working class people with better things to do -- journey to its offices in Paramount, or journey to the MTA, or attend one of its meetings on its schedule to view the maps.
This is sickening conduct, the equivalent of using carbon paper when copy machines are cheaper and better. It can't be fixed by adding more meetings (more carbon paper plus a 1950's mimeograph machine).
This is an embarrassment for LB on a number of levels. Among other things: the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the "Gateway Cities Council of Government" is none other than LB Vice Mayor Frank Colonna.
A Press-Telegram news piece today portrays Colonna as riding to rescue by scheduling more meetings as a "representative on the [group's] oversight panel." That's fine, but as even he would admit, the buck stops with the Board...and he is its President.
And LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill also has a seat on the Gateway Council of Governments' Executive Committee, although she's farmed out that duty to 1st district Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal.
With all this clout, LB residents have a right to expect that their elected representatives to pick up the phone and inform the Gateway Cities Council of Governments' Executive Director that they want the detailed 710 maps -- for the freeway carrying our city's name -- posted on the internet for LB's constituents forthwith. A good time to announce this would be during the April 15 City Council meeting.
The internet offers home delivery of detailed information. It provides high efficiency at low cost. It's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those who don't have the internet at home can access the information at their local library. The internet is one of the most powerful information media ever created. It would be unconscionable for LB to let practitioners of mushroom style government make endless excuses for what they can't or won't do.
Knowledge is power. Ensuring the people can access that knowledge -- and empower themselves and their communities -- via the internet deserves legislative protection. We strongly support adding a few overdue sentences to CA Public Records Act to require internet posting of materials of 710 freeway magnitude.
If some government mushroom farmers oppose this, bring them on. We want to see exactly who they are.
LB legislators Alan Lowenthal, Jenny Oropeza and Betty Karnette needn't just shake their heads. We hope they will support -- and ideally co-sponsor -- "anti-mushroom" legislation that will prevent what happened here from being repeated anywhere in the state.