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The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2016 & The Storms on the 2017 Horizon

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The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2016 & The Storms on the 2017 Horizon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2016
Contact: Mary Connolly
CFOG Essay Contest Chair
cfogessay@aol.com

Ben Rosenfeld, a sophomore at Greenwich High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.

He wrote about recent student protests that have included demands that college administrators suppress speech that the protesting students believe is insensitive to racial minorities, women or other historically disempowered groups.

“The only appropriate time to limit speech is when a person or group of people blatantly advocate violence or discrimination,” he wrote. “All too often, groups protesting various speakers have claimed that ideas are ‘hateful’ and make them feel unsafe, without providing objective evidence.”

CFOG, a nonprofit educational organization, sponsors the essay contest each year to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.

A second prize of $500 was won by Jack Caplan, a senior at RHAM High School in Hebron. He wrote about the impact of public scrutiny, including cell phone videos, on law enforcement’s response to crime.

“It isn’t a very big secret that Americans have been, and always will be, in love with the idea of holding the government accountable. Recording law enforcement is just 21st century accountability,” he wrote. “It is significantly harder to dispute footage than it is an anecdotal narrative, and therefore makes cell phones the latest and greatest medium through which to keep a watchful eye over potential abuses of power.”

A third prize of $300 was won by Peter Bound, a junior at Greenwich High School, who wrote about Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal for “confidential” trials in some cases for defendants up to age 25.

“While Governor Malloy’s efforts to secure greater protections for young adults within the criminal justice system do not necessarily come from a bad place, they still represent a substantial departure from the original intention of the Connecticut Constitution and the court system at large.”

Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Nicole DiMauro of Immaculate High School in Danbury and Greenwich High students Takema Kajita, Gregory Macora and Paris-sima Mohammadi.

Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics:

  1. Recent student protests have included demands that college administrators suppress speech that the protesting students believe is insensitive to racial minorities, women or other historically disempowered groups. Would the granting of these demands violate the First Amendment?
  1. FBI Director James Comey says increased public scrutiny of police officers, including cell phone videos, is making officers reluctant to aggressively respond to crime. Does the First Amendment protect a citizen’s right to videotape police?
  1. Connecticut’s governor has proposed “confidential” trials in some cases for defendants up to age 25. Would this conflict with the public’s right to know if the criminal justice system is run in a fair and responsible fashion?

Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, George Krimsky, Martin Margulies, Lyn Hottes, Forrest Palmer, Eileen FitzGerald and Mary Connolly.

 

2015 First Place Winner
Alexis Tatore
Greenwich High School
Teacher: Aaron Hull

 

Are online threats of violence, such as wild rantings against an individual on Facebook, protected free speech under the First Amendment? Or are such threats crimes that should be prosecuted?

On August 27th, 2013, 655 students started their first day at Greenwich High School. The next day, only 654 would return. August 27th marked the date when Bart Palosz committed suicide after breaking down from years worth of cyberbullying.

Everyone knew Bart was bullied. In middle school, students slammed his face into a locker and the harassment soon moved online. By July, Bart hauntingly posted on his Google + account, “Does anyone know if you can light a 12 gauge shotgun shell with a lighter?”

Despite this, by the end of the investigation, Greenwich Lt. Kraig Gray remarked, “Our investigation did not uncover any articulation by Bart as to why he took this particular action.”1

Our grade was shocked: we saw the harassment with our own eyes, and yet no one was prosecuted. How could the words that drove him to death be protected?

Online threats remain a complicated crime, but they’re far from a victimless crime. With an evolving framework of law, the country needs to extend its framework to the online community. Justice Holmes redefined the limits on the First Amendment with his famous opinion in Schenck v. United States .2 If one were to take an emotional, vulnerable teen and shoot them down with degrading messages, how is that any different from shouting fire in a crowded theater?

The crux of this issue is whether posting incites imminent danger. As I type, a potentially groundbreaking case, Elonis v. United States , sits on the Supreme Court Justices’ desks, awaiting a decision to declare what constitutes a “true threat” online. The plaintiff, 3 Mr. Elonis, posted violent rap lines threatening his exwife. He calls the lyrics art; she calls them threats.

In the past, the courts have ruled that seemingly threatening online content can be merely ephemeral.

When Gilberto Valle was arrested for sending his fantasies of eating women, a judge overturned the conviction by reasoning that he was expressing a dark fantasy, not demonstrating an intent to act.4

Yet, judges must often walk on a tightrope to distinguish such feelings, swaying with each step due to an apparent threat but unclear evidence. In today’s world, the line can become even thinner considering the difficulty to convey tone, nonetheless intention, in an email.

The Supreme Court has attempted to decipher the intentions of the alleged First Amendment violators. In Virginia v. Black , the Court ruled that a Virginia statute could not base cross burning on prima facie evidence.5 This ruling can be extended to the case of Elonis v. US .

Surely, Mr. Elonis’ twisted lyrics detail violent actions, but he can’t be convicted based off of apparent intent alone. According to Mr. Elonis, he was only expressing his art form and asked his Facebook friends, “I’m willing to go to jail for my Constitutional rights are you?”

To clear the blurred lines, the term “fighting words” was coined in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire to describe words which spur lawless activities by their very utterance.6 The Justices asserted that such fighting words contributed nothing to the expression of ideas and carried no social value and to extend this thought to evolving law, demeaning wild rantings offer little social value.

The court of law should approach online threats of violence, whose cold words echo in the minds of victims, for exactly what it is: bullying hidden behind a screen. A computer cannot serve as a cloak. When malice is doused with fighting words, online threats should face the same prosecution as would public speech for a more secure, solicitous society.

 

Works Cited

1 Lyte, Brittany. “Police: No arrests in Palosz suicide case.” CT Post. Last modified October 19, 2013. Accessed March 30, 2015. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/PoliceNoarrestsinPaloszsuicidecase4908815.php.

2 Ragan, Fred D. “Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Zechariah Chafee, Jr., and the Clear and Present Danger Test for Free Speech: The First Year, 1919.” The Journal of American History 58, no. 1 (1971): 2445.

3 Anthony Douglas Elonis v. United States of America, No. 13983 (Sept. 2014).

4 Bazelon, Emily. “Do Online Death Threats Count as Free Speech?” The New York Times. Last modified November 25, 2014. Accessed March 30, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/magazine/doonlinedeaththreatscountasfreespeech.html.

5 “VIRGINIA v. BLACK,” The Oyez Project at IIT ChicagoKent College of Law, accessed March 30, 2015,
http://www.oyez.org/cases/20002009/2002/2002_01_1107 .

6 “CHAPLINSKY v. STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE,” The Oyez Project at IIT ChicagoKent College of Law, accessed March 30, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/19401949/1941/1941_255 .

The Middletown Press, one of only 18 daily newspapers remaining in Connecticut, closed down its print edition and went fully digital this past January in an effort to save costs. This move from print to digital follows a pattern throughout the state and nation. Connecticut is now served by fewer printed newspapers than at any time in the past 50 years. How has this shift impacted the traditional watchdog role played by the press and the public’s right to know what its local government is doing?

These and other issues are explored in a question-and-answer format posed by retired journalists Forrest C. Palmer, George A. Krimsky and Tom Crider:

Q.  The health of the newspaper industry has been in unrelentingly decline for the past two decades.  What, in brief, is happening?

A. The short answer is that the public has gradually lost its 200-year-old newspaper reading habit in favor of new ways of accessing information and images, with the added benefit of audience participation, or “interactivity.”  Newspaper readership in Connecticut, based on circulation figures, has declined by 40 to 50 percent since 1990. At the same time, display and classified advertising, which once accounted for 70 to 75 percent of all newspaper revenue, has been cut in half from $49 billion in 2005 to $25 billion today, as advertisers have found new ways to spend their dollars, mostly on the Internet. The loss has been particularly heavy for the smaller papers, which enjoy less financial flexibility than the large urban dailies, although they, too, have suffered mightily. 

Q. It’s easy to lay most of the blame (or credit) on new communications technology, but what about changes in news tastes and reading habits?

A. The popularity of television news certainly diverted some attention away from newspapers after World War II, and a later shift in work patterns greatly affected how Americans spent their free time.  As women started joining the workforce in greater numbers, and two incomes became more of a family necessity, there was simply less time to read the paper – especially in the evening. This is why Connecticut’s traditionally dominant afternoon papers either disappeared or merged with morning editions. In addition, consumer surveys began to show that the public wanted less news about government and politics and more human interest stories, celebrity news, and so-called “good news” stories.

Q.  Haven’t these changes eroded the longstanding role of the press as a “public trust” that is meant to keep citizens informed about public affairs and to hold democratic government accountable to the voters?

A.  Absolutely. Loss of newspaper revenue meant cutbacks in staff, which meant fewer journalists to cover events and issues that had earned the press the role of “watchdog” of government. Connecticut’s largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, has reduced its news staff from 400 to 135 since 1994.  Investigative projects have particularly suffered. But the greatest victim has been grass-roots coverage of community affairs, which has always been the province of the smaller local newspapers. Why? Because those daily and weekly papers have always been the ones with “boots on the ground,” covering everything from the local finance board to the high school football team. The shortfall in coverage has only marginally been made up by the Internet from private news bloggers and municipal websites. 

Q. Is there any hard evidence that democracy has suffered as a result?

A. This is a subject of great debate, but the circumstantial evidence is compelling. In Connecticut, for example, 54.6 per cent of the state’s eligible citizens voted in the 1991 municipal elections. A decade later, the turnout for similar elections was 41.3 per cent. The downturn in voter participation has been particularly severe in the cities. How much of this can be attributed to reduced news coverage has not yet been clearly demonstrated. Another example:  Only three newspaper companies in the state – The Hartford Courant, the Republican-American in Waterbury and the Hearst organization, which owns four Connecticut papers – assign reporters today to the state capitol during the annual legislative session. A digital company, The CT Mirror, now has the biggest legislative cadre – six reporters. Every newspaper editor has a sad tale about not being able to undertake a potentially significant investigative project because of insufficient staff and resources.  

Q. Will the electronic media be able to fulfill the watchdog role once played by the press?

A. Evidence to date makes this seem unlikely. Electronic and digital media are still largely dependent upon the old “legacy” workhorses for the most serious news content. Sustainable business models for digital media coverage, particularly of local government, are still rare. Even the fabled Huffington Post, which gets much of its raw material from others, barely broke even last year. Some of the most successful investigative news sites come from non-profit organizations subsidized by foundations and private donations. 

Forrest C. Palmer, a longtime CFOG supporter, spent four decades working at Connecticut newspapers, retiring in 1991 as the publisher of the Danbury News Times.

George A. Krimsky is an author and former journalist who reported from the USSR and the Middle East for the Associated Press before returning to the Waterbury Republican, from which he retired in 2012.

Tom Crider is an author and former journalist who began his career on the Waterbury Republican as a reporter and then editor.  He is currently president of the Southbury Land Trust.

In a victory for open records, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that reports of misconduct by teachers at state public schools and universities are public records to be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Dr. Jay Lieberman of the University of Connecticut Health Center appealed a decision of the state Freedom of Information Commission ordering disclosure of reports concerning grievances filed against him. Lieberman asked the state Supreme Court to exempt from public disclosure any records that contain any form of performance evaluation.

In upholding the commission’s decision, the Supreme Court rejected that argument. Justice Dennis Eveleigh, writing for a unanimous court, stated:

“Conceivably almost all records relating to a faculty or professional staff member’s employment could include some form of evaluative content,” Eveleigh wrote. “Thus, to adopt Lieberman’s position would make the exception so broad that it would threaten to swallow the general rule of disclosure under the act, as it applies to university faculty and professional staff members.”

Polls consistently show Americans have a limited knowledge of their First Amendment rights. They know about freedom of speech and freedom of religion but often can’t name the other rights protected by the First Amendment.

Worse, a consistent one-third of Americans tell pollsters they think the First Amendment goes too far in offering these protections.

CFOG’s annual high school essay contest is a valuable tool in focusing student and teacher attention on First Amendment issues. Each January, information on the contest is sent to teachers around Connecticut. First prize is $1,000, second prize is $500, third prize is $300 and honorable mentions are $50.

Often, teachers give students extra credit for their essays or even include the CFOG contest as one of a number of essay contests that students must pick from and enter as part of their class requirements.

The CFOG contest topics involve issues in the news, and issues that confront students at school. There have been questions about the banning of message T-shirts and even bracelets that sought to raise cancer awareness with language school administrators thought was inappropriate.

Last year, the topics included threats on Facebook, police body cameras and FBI agents pretending to be reporters to investigate a high school bombing threat.

Our top winners in 2015 were Alexis Tatore of Greenwich High School, Cole Schmidt of Waterbury Arts Magnet School and Bennett Brain of Greenwich High. Honorable mentions went to students at Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted, Trumbull High School and Greenwich High.

The 2016 essay topics are:

1. Recent student protests have included demands that college administrators suppress speech that the protesting students believe is insensitive to racial minorities, women or other historically disempowered groups. Would the granting of these demands violate the First Amendment?

2. FBI Director James Comey says increased public scrutiny of police officers, including cell phone videos, is making officers reluctant to aggressively respond to crime. Does the First Amendment protect a citizen’s right to videotape police?

3. Connecticut’s governor has proposed “confidential” trials in some cases for defendants up to age 25. Would this conflict with the public’s right to know if the criminal justice system is run in a fair and responsible fashion?

Students should choose one of these three topics to answer in their essays. The essays must be at least 400 words but no more than 600 words and emailed no later than March 31, 2016 to cfogessay@aol.com. Winners will be announced by May 16.

If you know a high school student who enjoys writing, suggest they enter the CFOG contest.

From Jon Lender’s January 24, 2016 Government Watch column in The Hartford Courant…

Word of [Andres Ayala Jr.’s] resignation [as Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles] emerged this past Wednesday, two days after The Courant submitted an FOI request and questions on a subject that might have become the latest political headache for him and the Malloy administration: DMV’s hiring in November of an Ayala associate from Bridgeport — who pleaded guilty in 2006 of felony drug charges in Superior Court and served time in prison — as a $36,000-a-year office assistant in the commissioner’s office.

The aide, Carlos Cosme, 39, worked for two years as a $40,000 staff member of the state Democratic Senate Caucus, starting in January 2013, then switched to DMV while Ayala was in charge.

Cosme initially was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2006 on charges of possession of drugs with intent to sell, but that term was reduced and he was released in 2009 to supervised parole that ended in 2011, records show. Cosme was not available for comment.

Personnel records obtained late in the week show that Cosme was hired at DMV on Nov. 13, although state comptroller’s records initially said it was early in 2015, and that he was rated as one of two top applicants by a three-member department panel that included Mildred Torres-Ferguson, the former top aide to the state Democratic speaker of the House who is now executive assistant in the DMV commissioner’s office.

The November hiring was Cosme’s second try at employment in the DMV commissioner’s office; it turns out that Ayala had attempted to hire him at DMV in January 2015 on his way in as commissioner, a top state official said.

Ayala’s predecessor, Melody Currey, told Government Watch on Friday that in her last days as motor vehicles commissioner a year ago (she’s now Malloy’s Department of Administrative Services commissioner), the newly arriving Ayala “wanted to hire” Cosme for a politically appointed position — a clerical job.
Ayala was “comfortable” with Cosme through his work with him as a Senate aide, Currey said. But when the DMV performed its standard background check on Cosme, it turned up the criminal history, Currey said. She said she talked that over with Ayala, and “it was a mutual decision not to bring him in.”

The state’s watchdog agencies warned lawmakers that cuts in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget would render their agencies essentially useless, the Journal Inquirer reported last month.  In order to meet all of Malloy’s recommended spending reductions, they would need to either lay off essential staff or reallocate funds that are currently used to pay for office utilities.

In testimony before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee, Freedom of Information Commission Executive Director Colleen Murphy said “the cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget are grave.”

The JI reported that Malloy’s budget proposal would cut a combined $891,983 from the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Freedom of Information Commission, and the Office of State Ethics — the three biggest of the nine so-called watchdog agencies that operate under the Office of Government Accountability.

The governor also has proposed consolidating funding for the remaining six agencies into one appropriation for the Office of Governmental Accountability as part of his call for block-grant funding to give executive branch heads more discretion.

“The commission’s case docket has increased dramatically over the past several years, while its staff and funding have been greatly reduced due to consolidation and budget cuts,” Murphy said. “I am actively seeking ways to fulfill the Commission’s responsibilities, without abridging the right of the citizens of Connecticut to open and accountable government,” Murphy added.

Open government advocates urged lawmakers to maintain current funding levels for the watchdog agencies.

“Public scrutiny and oversight is essential to a government that is of, by, and for the people,” Connecticut Common Cause said in written testimony. “Governor Malloy’s proposal would make the process of allocating taxpayer dollars completely opaque and hidden from the public. Openness in government strengthens democracy, promotes efficiency, and allows members of the public input on decisions that directly affect their lives.”

 

By James H. Smith
President, CCFOI

We at the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information are hopeful for the first time since 2012, that the state will open historical medical records to the public.

A CCSU history professor has been blocked from doing research at Connecticut Valley Hospital into the treatment of “Soldier’s Heart,” the Civil War term for what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. A Connecticut author has been denied the records on Amy Archer Gilligan, the infamous mass murderer whose story was the genesis for the play “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The Government, Administration and Elections Committee is raising its own bill to make such records public after 75 years (the National Archives rule), a significant step by the committee, considering that our previous attempts failed at getting the legislation to the floor. At this point, it is looking good.

CCFOI is poised to support expected legislation again requiring the UCONN Foundation to open its books to the public. It remains an uphill battle even though Connecticut is the only New England state that allows its premiere public university to keep secret so much of what the foundation does.

We have testified in behalf of CT-N’s proposal to expand its service on covering governmental meetings, including the judiciary. CT-N’s plan (S.B. 104) would authorize the creation of a new State Civic Network available to citizens wherever they are, on whatever platform they use. It would establish an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan management entity, similar in structure to community access television, and overseen by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority. It would be funded by a monthly subscriber fee, estimated to cost customers less than 50 cents a month, similar to how C-SPAN and community access stations are funded.

To quote Mitch Pearlman’s testimony in favor of the bill: “A new generation of CT-N needs to be created to manage and anticipate technological innovations transforming the way citizens receive, access and interact with information about the public policy issues facing Connecticut. It would improve coverage of all three branches of government. It would add context to what is happening, making information easily accessible and useful. It would incorporate programming, education and outreach focused on building civic skills.”

We are also in touch with citizens interested in making sure school bullying records are kept by local school officials and the amount of bullying that is happening is public information. Whether legislation is proposed this year remains to be seen.

CCFOI is in its 61st year. Our board meets monthly (except July and August) and we welcome people to join us and get involved.

By Thomas B. Scheffey

If open government advocates prevail, the state’s tiny public affairs TV network, CT-N, will soon be transformed to dramatically increase coverage of all three branches of state government.

A bill to turn CT-N into a “state civic network” was the subject of a public hearing on Feb. 22 before the legislative Government Administration and Elections committee, co-chaired by Sen. Steven Cassano and Rep. Ed Jutila.

“This is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing,” said Cassano, “And frankly, that helps us as legislators, and makes our job easier when the public knows what we are doing.”

An expanded CT-N would increase legislative coverage significantly and create a complete and searchable video archive of cases argued before the Supreme and Appellate courts. CT-N has previously aired Supreme Court arguments, legislative sessions and a limited number of legislative hearings and other public affairs events.

The bill’s strongest proponent is Paul Giguere, president and CEO of CT-N, who launched the non-profit, state funded network in 1999. It has been limited to covering two legislative hearings at a time, he noted. “On a busy day, it means 80 percent of what’s happening in that building is not being seen by people who are not in the building.”

“The reality of how citizens consume their media – you may not want to sit there and watch a 12 hour hearing… but when it’s finished, you’d be able to go in and search for what you’re looking for, and to mark an in-point and an out-point and to share that clip, I think is incredibly powerful,” Giguere said.

State Savings

The new CT-N would no longer be funded by the state, saving $3.2 in expenditures from the General Fund, Cassano said. Under the proposal, it is to be funded by cable TV subscribers under the same federal law that launched CSPAN, the national network that began televising the U.S. Congress in 1991.

Currently CT-N is not a “must carry” station for cable TV, but that would change under the new bill, Giguere said. Currently, CT-N is in a regulatory vacuum. “Currently, we’re not a broadcaster. We’re not a traditional cable channel like ESPN or CNN. And we’re not even defined as a local community access channel,” he said.
Under the federal law, 47 USC Sec 531, as a state civic network, CT-N would be regulated like a utility, by PURA, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. “It’s part of that regulatory framework that the cable channels must carry, and they’re funded through the cable companies in the same way.”

Giguere said that this option has been legally available for almost two decades. “We didn’t know when we launched CT-N that we could have done this 18 years ago. The law gives to state regulatory authorities the ability to require cable channel capacity and funding for a network like this. All the bill does is define a state civic network within that framework.”

An expanded CT-N would not only provide greater access to citizens seeking to watch their government in action, it would also help reporters covering government, which in turn benefits the public.

“The real power for the journalist is to be able to go in and pull certain pieces of that meeting and then imbed them in the story. That’s really the future of where journalism is heading,” Giguere said. “So this puts the process on the cutting edge of that, and makes it much easier for journalists to do their job more effectively, and the broadcast media as well would have access to the feeds. We would hope it would encourage the news media to pay more attention to what’s happening in the all the branches.”

Court Impact

Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers said in a statement, “One of my top goals since becoming Chief Justice in 2007 has been making the Judicial Branch more transparent and accessible to the public. We have worked with CT-N for many years so that it may expand coverage of oral arguments at both the Supreme and Appellate Courts.” Appellate lawyer Jeffrey Babbin, of New Haven-based Wiggin & Dana, was enthusiastic.

“It’s great news,” he said. Because the appellate system has recently adopted E-filing, providing briefs and appendices of all cases, “rounding this out with easily- available [videos of] oral arguments, online, makes the record complete.”

Babbin said the streaming video of oral arguments, on demand, would be a valuable tool for research, education and client service. Lawyers who are new to appellate argument could learn a lot from the archive, Babbin said. Proloy Das, an appellate lawyer at Murtha Cullina in Hartford, said the video helps him research of a case.

“What I like to do, when there’s a video of the argument available, is first read the decision and then watch the oral argument, and put the issues in context. Public policy concerns the court may have had, and specific legal concerns get fleshed out in the oral argument. You can see how the written decision gets shaped.”

Babbin said he’s been filmed by CT-N at the Supreme Court on many occasions. “I’m usually oblivious to the camera, but I’m always happy afterwards to be able to review it, and send it to clients who are unable to attend. Just like they see our briefs, they can see the oral argument. It’s nice for the client.”

Sen. Cassano noted that there are significant Supreme Court arguments coming up of vital importance to the state’s citizens, such as the landmark school funding case argued last month. Cassano said the politically-charged atmosphere of the current election year, and public distrust of government, makes it harder for lawmakers to function. “If people get to see the process in action,” he said, it improves the communication from the public.

A Firefighter’s Journey

Giguere’s belief in citizen involvement in government goes back a long way.  Back in 1984, he was an Enfield firefighter, on the extrication team of a gruesome head-on collision caused by a drunk driver. “We didn’t think she was going to survive. She had traumatic brain injury, and is still paralyzed on the left side of her body, in a wheelchair. I’m still in touch with her.”

When he and his fellow firemen learned the driver would probably face no jail time, he resolved to do something about it.

He went to testify at the Capitol, but the process was intimidating.  He watched, but did not speak. “I was too intimidated, and I left without doing anything. That was really the seed that started CT-N. If ordinary people would have an opportunity to watch this for themselves, and see what the process is. That you sign up, that you only get three minutes – ordinary people would be able to participate in a meaningful way. And that was what we did in 1998, when we created the non-profit, and went on the air in 1999.

And you know what?  The world has changed, and it’s time for us to take the next step in the evolution, and keep up with citizen needs.”

The statement of purpose behind a state civic network is simple, but profound, Giguere said. “The idea is, that public participation in government ‘depends on the full, free and reliable access to the deliberations and decisions of state government” using technology “to overcome the barriers of time, distance and complexity that separate government from the governed.’”