CALIFORNIANS AWARE - THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC FORUM RIGHTS (AKA CalAware)

Open Government - Free Speech - Protected Reporting

aka CalAware   |   Carmichael, CA   |  https://www.calaware.org/

Mission

To foster the improvement of, compliance with and public understanding and use of, public forum law, which deals with people's rights to find out what citizens need to know to be truly self-governing, and to share what they know and believe without fear or loss.

Ruling year info

2004

Executive Director

Emelyn C. Rodriguez

President

Tim Crews

Main address

2218 Homewood Way

Carmichael, CA 95608 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

20-1008855

NTEE code info

Citizen Participation (W24)

Civil Liberties Advocacy (R60)

Censorship, Freedom of Speech and Press Issues (R63)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is not required to file an annual return with the IRS.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

We help citizens, public servants and journalists in California. We are a nonprofit organization, established to keep Californians aware of what they need to know to hold government and other powerful institutions accountable for their actions. Our mission is to support and defend open government, an enquiring press and a citizenry free to exchange facts and opinions on public issues.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Legislation

CalAware promotes legislation to assure full and open access to governmental information and meetings and to open and robust discourse in the public forum.

Population(s) Served

CaAware puts government on written notice of violations of First Amendment, open meetings and public records violations and encourages correction to avoid legal action. When necessary, CalAware brings legal action to compel compliance with open government and freedom of information laws, and the First Amendment protections for expression on matters of public concern.

Population(s) Served

CalAware conducts blind surveys of California public agencies both locally and statewide to test their awareness of and compliance with the laws governing public access to government information and public records.

Population(s) Served

CalAware publishes comprehensive guidebooks to California law dealing with public access to government decisional or advisory meetings; with public access to government records and information; with the protection of news gathering and publication, both for professional and student journalists; and with the rights of civic-minded watchdogs at the community level. CalAware also:
>> publishes a blog highlighting current issues and conflicts in such areas;
>> maintains a website offering a knowledge base of frequently asked questions and concise "Top Ten" briefings on open government and free expression issues; and
>> offers training on request to governmental agencies, taxpayer and labor groups and civic associations.

Population(s) Served

CalAware's general counsel, who has been working and writing in such areas for more than 38 years, provides without charge answers to questions received by phone or email concerning people's rights and government obligations in the areas of open government, citizen participation, freedom of information, whistleblower protections and First Amendment freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of advocate or trained spokesperson citations in the media

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Legal Information on Request

Context Notes

Quotes in media by staff or board members of CalAware, identified as such, concerning legislation, court decisions, public forum law issues, CalAware activities etc.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

CalAware was established in 2004 to help taxpayers, public officials and journalists keep Californians aware of what they need to know to hold government and other powerful institutions accountable for their actions. Its mission is to support and defend open government, an inquiring press and a citizenry free to exchange facts and opinions on public issues. In short, Californians Aware is a center for information, guidance and initiatives in public forum law.

Public forum law deals with people's rights to find out what citizens need to know to be truly self-governing, and to share what they know and believe without fear or loss. These rights are complementary. Open meetings and public records laws keep information about civic issues freely available. Legal protections for journalists, activists, whistleblowers and others striving to keep the community armed with the facts and their implications complete the circle of law that it takes to keep Californians aware.

The trends that threaten public forums are:
• Excessive official secrecy, leaving a public starved of the facts that are staples of speech.
• Intimidation or retaliation, placing too high a price on inquiry, reporting or comment.
• Eroding opportunity, caused by dwindling space or time for expected and protected speech.

We propose to offer resources to fight them, and to do so without political partisanship or ideology. Our only agenda is to allow others' agendas, however tentative or unpopular at the moment, to be offered and debated for whatever support they may attract.
The challenge has three levels:
• Encouraging the improvement of public forum law in the Legislature and the courts.
• Promoting better practices and better observance of the law by public agencies.
• Assuring that citizens know their rights and protections and how to use them confidently.

Our experience to date combines:
• 36 years of monitoring the California Legislature and working on policy there to improve public forum law and fighting to preserve it from erosion;
• 24 years of daily responding to phoned and other queries from public interest activists, attorneys, public officials and journalists concerning open government and free expression laws.
• 10 years suing state and local agencies—almost always successfully—for violating the open meetings and public records laws;
• 10 years blogging about and publishing guidebooks to using laws on open government meetings and records as well as protection for journalists; and
• 8 years conducting audits of state and local agencies to determine their compliance with the state's public records laws.

CalAware works to preserve and extend your liberties and protections before speech or civic action puts them in play, by supporting and enforcing strong limitations on the power of government.

CalAware provides information and experienced guidance to the public on how to deal with government forces striving to hide information, squelch public criticism or exclude the public from obtaining full and open access to the operation of government.

CalAware helps members of the public find an experienced First Amendment, open meetings and public records act lawyer when legal action is required to defend rights or compel access.

For a full list of accomplishments please go to: https://www.calaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Principal-Activities-and-Achievements-of-Californians-Aware.pdf

As for what's next, we're focusing on serving sectors with distinctive needs:

Nonprofit Local News Enterprises

Of the 180 member entities of the Institute for Nonprofit News, 23 or 14 percent are in California, and while a handful cover major metropolitan areas, most do not. They cannot afford a staff attorney or even occasional counseling by a media law specialist.
CalAware will provide them with low-cost e-book versions of its Guide to Journalism Law in California, which can also provide the framework for YouTube tutorials, periodic webinars and an attorney helpline.

Residents of Condominium Communities

In 2008 the condominium industry estimated that about a third of California’s population lived in the state’s 45,000 common interest developments—private residential communities governed by homeowner associations. The HOAs are not subject to the state’s open meeting or public records laws, but instead have their own transparency requirements.
CalAware will develop a guide to those access and transparency guarantees.

Newly Organized Activist and Advocacy Groups

Some social, political, educational or environmental issues are perennial, with adherents having an experienced and confident grasp of their rights to publicly demonstrate their support for or opposition to a cause for common concern. Others, however, may form around a particular and relatively sudden controversy surrounding the actions or proposals of a local, state or federal agency, or of a corporate entity.
CalAware will work to develop a handbook providing a quick study of the rights and risks of vocal democracy.

High School Student Speech and Journalism Rights

California’s Education Code provides several statutes governing high school student speech and journalism that are more protective of expression than the First Amendment. But neither the state nor most school districts provide training in these laws.
CalAware will publish, in affordable e-book format, its First Amendment 101: A Guide to Speech, Press and Related Rights of California High School Students.

Financials

CALIFORNIANS AWARE - THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC FORUM RIGHTS (AKA CalAware)

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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CALIFORNIANS AWARE - THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC FORUM RIGHTS (AKA CalAware)

Board of directors
as of 12/05/2018
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Tim Crews

Sacramento Valley Mirror

Term: 2016 - 2018

Timothy Crews

Sacramento Valley Mirror

Robert Stern

Formerly, Center for Governmental Studies

Donna Frye

Formerly, City of San Diego

JW August

NBC7, San Diego

Kelly Aviles

Law Offices of Kelly Aviles

Julie Biggs

Formerly, Aleshire & Wynder LLP

Dan Laidman

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Heather Hopkins

California Senate

Toni Momberger

Redlands City Council

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No