The following is a news commentary
For federal and local government, the reflexive position too often seems to be secrecy. Not only is it often unnecessary, but it could be argued it’s unethical and possibly unlawful, at times. It’s as if government entities don’t understand they derive their power from the people. They’re funded by the people. They work for the people. The information they have belongs to the people. Instead, bureaucrats often treat information as if they own it, like a corporation coveting highly-proprietary material. They lord over and withhold it in ways they perceive to be to their political advantage, regardless of the public nature of the information and of the bureaucrats’ mission.
A few weeks ago, I asked whether the news media was avoiding showing Donald Trump’s large crowds. I concluded, in part, that Hillary Clinton (for her own reasons) appears to be choosing to speak at relatively modest venues.
Today, prior to a Clinton appearance at Florida’s Sanford Senior Center, I called the center to ask how many people it can hold. This is a routine call to help determine maximum capacity for an event. Instead of answering the question, the person who answered the phone sounded distressed and consulted somebody else in the room.
“It depends on how it’s configured, if there are tables or chairs…” she explains, in dodging my answer.
“Well just tell me the normal capacity for a standing event,” I say.
Silence. She consults the other person in the room again.
“We can’t tell you that, for security reasons,” she informs me. She argues that the Secret Service doesn’t want them to say how many people could be attending the speech.
“You don’t have to address this particular event,” I tell her. “Just how many can the facility hold, in general, for other events, standing only?”
More conversation with the other person in the room. She finally returns.
“I can’t tell you. Sorry,” she says, and hangs up on me before I can ask anything else.
I do a little hunting around online and find that the information I’ve asked for is published on the senior center’s website. It says the maximum capacity if the auditorium, lobby and annex, if filled, is about 850.
But the point here is how the reflexive position is too often to withhold the most basic information from the public, even when unnecessary or unwarranted. The public has started to become accustomed to being stonewalled, even over the simplest matters. It’s a slippery slope, if allowed, that leads to a society-wide clampdown on material that we own and have a right to.