State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has been awarded the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s 2010 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award for her successful efforts to force webcasting on the state Legislature.
Arnold-Jones was nominated by NMPolitics.net.
The Foundation for Open Government hands out the award in several categories that include education, media, business, law and government – the category in which Arnold-Jones was recognized.
Here’s what FOG had to say about Arnold-Jones in a news release announcing the award:
“During the 2009 legislative session, Arnold-Jones risked violating House rules and upsetting her colleagues when she brought a video camera into two legislative committees and began webcasting the proceedings. Her bold action inspired media organizations and other House members to launch their own webcasting streams, and it paved the way for audio and video webcasting to gain wide acceptance among legislators. Just one year later, video-webcasting measures flew through the House, enabling citizens across New Mexico to keep a watchful eye on business at the Roundhouse.”
Others who were given the award this year were Norman Becker, New Mexico Mutual president and CEO; Winston Brooks, Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent; attorney Hal Simmons; and Robert B. Trapp, managing editor of the Rio Grande Sun.
As I wrote in announcing that NMPolitics.net had nominated Arnold-Jones for the award in January, I considered not nominating her because she’s running for governor and I’m a journalist covering that race. Nominating Arnold-Jones for the award was not an endorsement of her candidacy for governor, and I didn’t want it to be interpreted as such – by her or anyone else.
In the end, however, as I wrote in my nomination letter, “it’s rare for an elected official to stand up to a broken system in such a courageous manner and start a movement that so dramatically changes things.”
“Such courage must be rewarded, and though this nomination is not, in any way, an endorsement of Arnold-Jones’ candidacy for governor, it is an attempt to recognize her important work to advance the cause of open and transparent government and to encourage other public officials to follow her lead,” I wrote.
That last part is the key: Arnold-Jones stood up to legislative leaders and risked violating House rules to do the right thing. Such courage is rare. Nominating Arnold-Jones for the award was simply an attempt to recognize her for doing the right thing, and to encourage other public officials to do the same.