Category: ‘Open Government’

Pirate Party Endorsement

October 4, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

Today, the Pirate Party of Oklahoma has released their list of candidate endorsements. Out of all people running for office this year, only 26 were willing to respond to their request. Of those 26, only 4 responded with sufficient support for openness in our government to warrant an endorsement.

Zachary Knight is one of those 4.

As a bit of background for the Pirate Party, their “About Us” page describes their platform as follows:

The Pirate Party of Oklahoma is a new political party with the goal of promoting the Privacy Rights of Oklahomans, push for increased Government Transparency, advocate for Ballot Access Reform, and encourage reform of Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks. We are a member of the United States Pirate Party and are also associated with Pirate Parties International. The Pirate Party of Oklahoma was formed in January of 2010 with the signing of our Constitution.

As for their endorsement, this came based on my responses to a number of questions. These questions ranged from Open Access to government, protection from unwarranted wire tapping and searches and Ballot Access Reform. I have included a few examples below.

This is an endorsement I fully accept and encourage all to read the responses of those who are available on the Pirate Party site and see exactly how these issues affect you as a citizen of this state and nation.

On the issue of automated traffic monitoring systems, ie speed, red-light cameras, and other automated systems for identifying traffic violations:

I lived in Arizona for several years and experienced the automated speed and red light cameras. While I am sure those systems brought in quite a bit of revenue for the contractors who operated them, but not so much for the police departments. What is really worrisome about such systems is their inability to make judgment calls and read context of individual situations. The state should avoid such situations as they would bring on additional burden on the people while not increasing revenue for our underfunded police departments.
On laws preventing citizens from recording on-duty police officers:
Oklahoma is a one party consent state, meaning that only one side of a conversation being recorded whether in audio or video is required to consent to the recording. Any attempt to change those laws would violate our rights and a needed protection for the people. Our police force are public servants and they should be accountable to the people they serve. Retaining our one party consent status would allow the people to protect themselves from corruption and abuse.
On requiring the state legislature to comply with the Open Records Act:
All city, county and school government and agencies are required to comply with the open records act. There is not reason why our Legislative branch should not be held to the exact same standard. In order to hold our legislative members accountable, we need to have an open and accurate record of what they are doing in office. I can see a need to protect correspondence with individuals of a legislator’s constituency, but any correspondence with registered lobbyists, state agencies and other legislators should be open to public scrutiny.
Finally, on Ballot Access Reform:
As an independent, I am affected directly by Oklahoma’s current Ballot Access laws. I have come to realize that yes they are the most restrictive and there is no reason to keep them as is, other than reducing competition for incumbent parties. When elected, I plan on working with other legislators in writing and passing sweeping reform in the state. This will include reducing the required number of signatures to [5000] as it was prior to 1974 and changing ballot access laws to remove language that writes the incumbent parties into law.
To read the full list of questions and Zachary’s responses, you can follow this link.

State Question No. 751: A Unified Language

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 751 seeks to make English the official language of Oklahoma. The Language is as follows:

This measure amends the State Constitution.  It adds a new Article to the Constitution.  That Article deals with the State’s official actions.  It dictates the language to be used in taking official State action.  It requires that official State actions be in English.  Native American languages could also be used.  When Federal law requires, other languages could also be used.

These language requirements apply to the State’s “official actions.”  The term “official actions” is not defined. The Legislature could pass laws determining the application of the language requirements.  The Legislature would also pass laws implementing and enforcing the language requirements.

No lawsuit based on State law could be brought on the basis of a State agency’s failure to use a language other than English.  Nor could such a lawsuit be brought against political subdivisions of the State.

This question would make all official State business to be only conducted in English and Native American languages. This means that official business with the state cannot be conducted in languages such as Spanish or French.

This question could have some budget saving implications in that printed material from the state will only be printed in select languages. This will also help to increase productivity in our government processes.

There are concerns that this is a targeted measure against illegal immigration from Mexico, but I do not feel that this will negatively affect legal immigration from outside the US. Legal immigrants recognize the need to learn and speak the native language spoken in the US and will make efforts to do business in English.

Vote Yes on SQ 751

State Question No. 747: Term Limits

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 747 creates term limits for all state wide elected officials. The language is as follows:

This measure amends sections 4 and 23 of Articles 6 and section 15 of Article 9 of the State Constitution.

It limits the ability of voters to re-elect statewide elected officers by limiting how many years those officers can serve.  It limits the number of years a person may serve in each statewide elected office.  Service as Governor is limited to eight years.  Service as Lieutenant Governor is limited to eight years.  Service as Attorney General is limited to eight years.  Service as Treasurer is limited to eight years.  Service as Commissioner of Labor is limited to eight years.  Service as Auditor and Inspector is limited to eight years. Service as Superintendent of Public Instruction is limited to eight years.  Service as Insurance Commissioner is limited to eight years.  Service as a Corporation Commissioner is limited to twelve years. Service for less than a full term would not count against the limit on service.  Years of service need not be consecutive for the limits to apply. Officers serving when this measure is passed can complete their terms.  All such serving officers, except the Governor, can also serve an additional eight or twelve years.

I support this measure. I believe that all elected officials should serve limited terms in office. I believe that instituting term limits in the legislature was one of the best things done for our state government in a long time.

This coupled with limits on lobbyist spending is a strong influence in preserving ethics in our government and elected officials. creating term limits also limits the ability of politicians from becoming “career politicians” who care for nothing other than getting reelected. If politicians know they will only be serving a limited time, they will work harder to pass legislation and policies that benefit the people they represent.

Vote Yes on SQ 747

State Question No. 750: Petitioning Our Government

September 27, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

State Question 750 changes the number of signatures needed to fill a petition. The language is below:

This measure amends a section of the State Constitution.  The section deals with initiative petitions.  It also deals with referendum petitions.  It deals with how many signatures are required on such petitions.  It changes that requirement.

“Initiative” is the right to propose laws and constitutional amendments.  “Referendum” is the right to reject a law passed by the Legislature.

The following voter signature requirements apply.

8% must sign to propose a law.

15% must sign to propose to change the State Constitution.

5% must sign to order a referendum.

These percentages are based upon the State office receiving the most total votes at the last General Election. The measure changes this basis.  The measure’s basis uses every other General Election.  General Elections are held every two years.  The Governor is on the ballot every four years.  The measure’s basis only uses General Elections with the Governor on the ballot.

The President is on the ballot in intervening General Elections.  The measure’s basis does not use General Elections with the President on the ballot.

More votes are usually cast at Presidential General Elections.  Thus, the measure would generally have a lowering effect on the number of required signatures.

I support this ballot measure as it provides greater power and ability to the people of Oklahoma to enact changes that an unwilling legislature will not.

Additionally by basing the required signatures on only Gubernatorial elections, the number of signatures will remain more constant over time as we will no longer be using Presidential elections when more people tend to vote.

Vote Yes on SQ 750

The State Legislature Should Not Be Immune to the Open Records Act

July 18, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

What makes the Oklahoma State Legislature so special that they can justify exempting themselves from our State’s open records act? Why are all other government bodies under threat of litigation if they do not fully disclose all their meetings to the public they serve, while our Representatives and Senators can hold secret meetings about our future without our knowledge?

Fear. That is the only thing I can think of. I think our government is so afraid of the people that elect them that they would rather hide themselves from the eyes of the people that they serve. What else could it be?

News 6 of Tulsa recently wrote a report on this corruption in our state. They came to the conclusion that the Legislature just didn’t want their bosses looking over their shoulders.

The Newcastle City Council is required by law to disclose the subject matter of all council meetings whether those meeting are open to the public or not. The city of Norman was sued and the charges later dismissed recently because someone felt they were not living up to the letter of law. Yet at the same time, our Representatives and Senators can hold any number of meetings on any number of subjects without informing those of us who elect them.

In most all jobs, the employees are given regular performance reviews. These happen at many stages throughout the year. There are the yearly performance reviews but also some done during the year. We have chosen our representatives and Senators to do the work we want them to do. By blocking our ability to perform our performance reviews of them, we cannot do our job properly when it comes election time.

During the last week of the Legislative Session, an $80 thousand dollar a year job was created with no evidence to point to who exactly wrote it into a bill. This is the kind of corruption that these exemptions from open records breeds.

When I am elected as State Representative, I will make it a point to fight to have all Legislative meetings disclosed to the public. I will oppose any effort to exempt the Legislature from full disclosure, unless there is an obvious and unavoidable need for confidentiality.

The Opposite of an Open Government

June 16, 2010 Posted by E. Zachary Knight

RJ Harris for US Congress 2010I completely support the idea of a government that is completely open in all its proceedings. This is one of the key points of my campaign. It is a shame to learn that there are some people that want to keep government dealings hidden from the eyes and ears of the people they are supposed to be serving.

It comes to me as no surprise to learn recently that RJ Harris was banned from all Cleveland County GOP events because he dared to allow people to post videos of a recent Straw Poll event on his Facebook and Youtube accounts.(source)

Not only was he banned for supporting openness in events leading to the State Primary, the event itself was less than open. The people running the event decided to force people to answer the poll prior to hearing either candidate speak. There is a big problem with that. People had little information going into the event and were then forced to vote in the dark so to speak. Many attendees stated they would have voted differently had they been able to vote after the event.

Is this what we as citizens of Oklahoma want? Are the people that banned RJ Harris the type of people we want leading our country? If this party does not want openness in even the primary events, will they support openness in government proceedings?

There are some people in the Republican party that support openness and RJ Harris is one of them. But there are far more people that would rather not provide the people of this state the information they need to make informed decisions.

If I am elected to State Representative, I will push strongly for openness in all government proceedings. I will work to make sure all public meetings of our government are broadcast online as well as on public television. I will work to make our bill tracking software easier to use.

Even during my campaign I will be available to answer any question you may have about my positions. Visit my contact page to find my personal email, cell phone, Twitter account, Facebook account and mailing address. I will respond in a timely manner to all requests for information.

Support openness in our election and government proceedings. Don’t let anyone deny information vital to our public good.