Thursday, June 19, 2008

Listening to the legislature

If you think sunshine is the best disinfectant and that transparency is mandatory for open govenrment, then you'll appreciate a new feature allowing the public to listen to legislative debates -- even ones that occurred days or weeks before. Sponsored by the N.C. Center for Voter Education, the new service is called VoterRadio and it's accessible here.
Of course, the legislature has made its sessions available live for a long time on its Web site www.ncleg.net, but this service gives interested folks a central place to learn a lot more about what's going on.
It's part of a plan to offer a closer look not just at legislative sessions but also interviews with candidates for office, with legislative leaders and other pieces about election. Next year the plan is to also offer audio recordingss of committee sessions -- where the real nitty-gritty decisions are made -- on the VoterRadio.com Web site.
Here's a news release from the center:

N.C. Center for Voter Ed. Launches VoterRadio.com

RALEIGH ­ The nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education has launched VoterRadio.com, an online radio station covering politics and elections in North Carolina.

With state lawmakers at work in Raleigh, VoterRadio.com offers live
broadcasts and rebroadcasts of daily sessions in both the N.C. Senate and N.C. House. Each session can also be heard on-demand at VoterRadio.com,where visitors can also download podcasts of daily sessions.

Other programming on VoterRadio.com includes "Judge for Yourself: Election 2008," a series of in-depth, one-on-one interviews with statewide candidates. With a runoff election for state labor commissioner approaching on June 24, voters can learn about the two contenders, John Brooks and Mary Donnan, by tuning in to VoterRadio.com's live stream or by listening on-demand at VoterRadio.com/judge.

VoterRadio.com produces "The Voter Update," a weekly newsmagazine covering Tar Heel politics. This week¹s episode features an interview with N.C. House Minority Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) and a look at Chapel Hill's new Voter-Owned Elections program with Chase Foster from N.C. Voters for Clean Elections.

VoterRadio.com also covers special events and speakers of importance to North Carolina voters, including the Sunshine Day Conference at Elon University this spring.

"From airing live audio of state legislative sessions, to offering in-depth interviews with statewide candidates, the goal of VoterRadio.com is to empower North Carolina voters with facts about their government and the candidates courting their support," said John Thompson, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education.

In addition to being available at www.VoterRadio.com, programming from VoterRadio.com can also be heard 24-hours daily on iTunes Radio under the "Talk/Spoken Word" category.

The N.C. Center for Voter Education is a Raleigh-based nonprofit and
nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving elections in North Carolina.

###

Online: http://www.VoterRadio.com

18 comments:

David McKnight said...

This will be a good exercise for civic-minded Charlotteans wishing to learn more about the nuances and vicissitudes of statewide politics in North Carolina. By listening to the Legislature during its various committee hearings and floor deliberations, you will be able to appreciate just what it takes to put together winning political coalitions for important causes involving elected state representatives and senators from the mountains to the coast.

Then you can decide for yourself whether it sounds better to say:

"From Manteo to Murphy"
or:
"From Murphy to Manteo."

Growing up in Charlotte and spending several summers in Western N.C., the way I first learned one preferred version of this hallowed expression growing up in Charlotte was: "From Murphy to Manteo." It had such a sweet poetic ring to it when spoken thusly.

Plus in Charlotte, in those days at least, we were considered to be closer to the West than the East in political geography. But then, spending two and a half years at that gosh-darned "newspaper of record" in Raleigh known then and now as The News & Observer, I began to hear folks phrase it, almost every time: "From Manteo to Murphy."

And that was before Marc Basnight of Manteo got to be such a VIP in the N.C. Senate.

So "Listen to the Legislature" (sounds like a song, doesn't it) because even under the same corporate ownership by McClatchy Newspapers of Sacramento, it may well be quite some time before either The Charlotte Observer or The News & Observer becomes completely comfortable with letting "that other newspaper" share in some of the responsibilities of staff reporting on various topics.

Already, I am dreading the arrival of my worst newspaper fears ever: that somehow The News & Observer's Raleigh offices would gain control over state government reporting for readers of The Charlotte Observer. For quick as a wink, the N.C. Democratic Party has decided to try to wrap Charlotte in knots that even Houdini would be hard pressed to unravel by issuing the audacious and unreasonable demand that Charlotte corporations dig out more than a decade's worth of company communications records at Mayor Pat McCrory's various employment stations along the way. The N&O seems to find no problem at all in all of this, giving observant Charlotteans a pretty reliable advance notice that The N&O views hamstringing folks from Charlotte with needless bureaucratic meddling as the most progressive course the Old North State can follow in statewide politics.

That's not a fair way for either major state party organization to treat the business community of any city in this state no matter what your preferred political affiliation happens to be.

For half of the state's Democratic Party's strategies seem to emanate from out-of-state party groups which have little appreciation for what it takes to run effective campaigns in the ticket-splitting Piedmont. Some "liberal" Democrats in Raleigh and Durham love nothing more than to team up with party stalwarts from New England and the Northeast to Texas and the Southwest to make life miserable for Democratic-leaning citizens from Charlotte and the Western Piedmont. So The N&O's state government desk is not likely to give much weight to the way Democrats and Republicans in Hickory and Salisbury see state government priorities in Raleigh.

Thus the intrastate deliberations of the N.C. Legislature can help our state regain its constitutional balance lost previously in out-of-state political deal-making. Therefore, the work of the Legislature ought to be studied and respected by even the most globally minded business people in Uptown Charlotte.

So in this case, as occasionally happens in other subject areas, the Legislature can perhaps help you to better understand the press instead of the other way around. For we do expect the press to help us to better understand our own region's politics and government, but it is not always able to do so. Don't forget, the Honorables in Raleigh are people too just like you and me, and a great number of them come from smaller cities and towns across the state so they're not biased against one particular metropolitan area or another.

At the very least, when it comes to learning about the Legislature, to paraphrase Lawrence (Yogi) Berra: you can hear a lot just by listening.

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