The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

October 23, 2009
Mayor uses smokescreen of "accountability" to keep wrongdoing under wraps

Mayor Kevin Johnson posted a truly odd response on his campaign blog Thursday to critics of his move to ferret out a City Hall leaker.. He loves accountability, he wrote in his first line. "Not one day has passed without me talking about accountability," he said. 

Now, he continued, he is asking the city council for accountability:

At the October 20 city council meeting, in a brief remark, I asked the City Manager to investigate how privileged city documents were being leaked to the media. My request puts several people in uncomfortable positions. The people who leaked the material are uncomfortable. And the media are uncomfortable. But the comfort of those people and organizations is not my concern.

Leaking, he writes, is "sneaky and dishonest." It "destroys" the government's ability to function. Really?

He further notes that the leaked documents were "written under the attorney-client privilege." Doesn't he know that the clients are under no obligation to keep documents secret? The council and mayor have the right to share legal memos with the public (and, some might even say, a duty to do so if they involve public issues).

As for the leaker or leakers, he essentially calls them cowards for not publicly stepping forward.

Johnson's blog post is an apparent response to an editorial The Bee published on Thursday:

Through his actions and words, he seems to care more about who leaked a confidential memo to The Bee detailing serious violations of city policy and federal regulations than about the violations themselves. At Tuesday night's council meeting, a steaming Johnson called for a closed-door council session attended by the city police chief. He wanted the chief there to discuss what he called "the crime" committed when a memo written by City Attorney Eileen Teichert about the Natomas permit violations was leaked to The Bee. ...This incident demands a thorough, open and independent investigation, not closed-door meetings intended to plug leaks and hide information from the public.

We're glad we got the mayor's attention.

October 22, 2009
Do you have a compelling story to tell, in 800 words?

ACW_DR__NATHAN_FAIRMAN_2.JPGSeveral weeks ago, an emergency room doctor named Nathan Fairman made contact with our pages. He inquired if we might publish his essay about how cuts in county mental health programs were filling his ER with people in desperate need of psychiatric treatment.

His essay required some slight editing, but it was packed with a powerful descriptions.

Patients with severe mental illnesses, wrote Fairman, were waiting on gurneys at the UC David Medical Center for days before being treated.

"One woman with schizophrenia was discharged with her doctors fully aware that there was some danger she might hurt herself or deteriorate further," he wrote. "The doctors' only other option, though, was to keep her on a gurney in the hallway."

We published Fairman's article, "ERs bear brunt of cuts to mental health," on the Viewpoints page on Oct. 10. I mention it because it represents a type of commentary, and a standard of writing, that we want to bring to these pages more frequently.

A doctor at UC Davis Medical Center, Fairman had not written for The Bee before. He wasn't a professional journalist. But he was angered by what he believed was an injustice that was overlooked in our community. As an ER doctor, he was in a unique position to chronicle what was happening.

As an editorial page editor, I wish I could find more Nathan Fairmans. No, I am not looking for doctors to fill our pages. I'm looking for unexpected voices. I'm looking for people of various occupations and backgrounds who can write with passion and personal knowledge of what they know best.

To read the rest of this post, go here.

October 3, 2009
The return of The Swarm
bee_hive_spl470_470x303.jpgThere's hasn't been much buzz around The Swarm lately, but that is about to change.

In coming weeks and months, we'll be using this blog to keep you posted on plans for our opinion pages and Forum section.

New national columnists, new local voices, a new look for our print pages and an overhaul of our online opinion pages - all in the works.

As I noted in a column last week, these changes won't happen in a vacuum and they won't happen overnight. I'm working to solicit your input, and give it the consideration it deserves.

The first step starts tonight. We've put together an on-line survey so you can tell us your favorite, and least favorite, syndicated columnists we publish. You can also suggest outside columnists that we should add to our roster.

I'm looking forward to the results -- especially your suggestions on outside pundits who can have some fresh ideas and a unique style.

You can find the survey on our opinion page tonight, after midnight and perhaps earlier. It will stay there through Saturday, Oct. 10. 

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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