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Berkeleyans Receive Awards from Society of Professional Journalists

Friday February 08, 2013 - 05:00:00 PM

The Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter (SPJ NorCal), has announced that it will honor “champions of open government and the First Amendment” at its 28th annual James Madison Awards banquet, to be held in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 12.

Two awards will go to Berkeley residents.

The “Citizen” award will go to Dean Metzger for leading the fight to enact the Berkeley Sunshine Ordinance.

The “Organization” award will go to Berkeley Copwatch, for “effective use of public records to block a Homeland Security grant for putting an armored military vehicle on the streets of Albany and Berkeley.”

In its citation of Metzger, the SPJ said: 

“Dean Metzger deserves a good deal of the credit for the fact that Berkeley has a Sunshine Ordinance. The longtime civic activist helped lead a tooth-and-nail fight for more than 10 years to increase City Hall’s transparency and accountability. 

“Berkeley voters last November rejected a ballot initiative (Measure U) that would have given the ordinance real teeth. But it was the success of Metzger and his fellow activists in getting the measure on the ballot that prompted Berkeley officials to enact the ordinance in February 2011. The ordinance included the creation of an advisory Sunshine Committee, which Metzger chairs.” 

According to the citation for Copwatch: 

“UC Berkeley and the cities of Berkeley and Albany almost got an armored personnel carrier through a $170,000 Homeland Security grant, but university students and city resident would never have known about it until the heavily armed vehicle actually rolled into town to put down civilian protests — had it not been for Berkeley Copwatch. 

“The police watchdog organization uncovered the grant through a general public records act request to the Berkeley Police Department, asking about equipment it was to receive through grant funds. Copwatch alerted the media and city officials to the grant. The Berkeley and Albany communities took the news badly (and angrily) and the grant was cancelled. 

“Berkeley Copwatch receives a 2013 James Madison Award not just for its dedication to openness and transparency, but for using it so effectively.”