The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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October 26, 2016 9:05 AM

Requests for reports at the Anchorage Police Department have stacked up due to a shortage of staff and a continuous flow of work.

A police report requested online typically takes four to five days to fulfill, said APD records supervisor Jennifer York. However, the records division currently is behind on requests by about three to four weeks, she said.

There were 431 pending requests as of last week, according to the police department.

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October 26, 2016 9:02 AM

You don’t have to be a journalist or a Freedom of Information Act expert to access public records in Virginia Beach, thanks to a new open-data portal that launched Monday.

The portal provides Virginia Beach residents easy access to many public records normally available through a FOIA request. The idea is to cut the middle man, putting information at residents’ fingertips and encouraging city employees to look at ways to improve services, said Virginia Beach Director of Management Services Catheryn Whitesell.

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October 26, 2016 9:00 AM

Supported by a donation from Kenneth L. Weiss, Esq., the Hanna and Douglas Weiss Open Government Legal Fellowship is a one-semester fellowship for a law student interested in learning about Florida's open government laws and the legislative process.

The application deadline for the 2017 Weiss Fellowship is November 15, 2016. Those interested in applying should submit a resume with a cover letter explaining the applicant's interest in open government and public service, and at least three references to info@floridafaf.org with the subject line WEISS FELLOWSHIP. A writing sample will be required of all finalists.

For more information, click here.

October 25, 2016 10:05 AM

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition will present Gregory Moore, former editor of The Denver Post, with the Jean Otto Friend of Freedom Award at a fundraising luncheon at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, at the Denver Consistory, 1370 Grant St., Denver.

The award recognizes someone for sustained and/or significant contributions to open government and First Amendment causes in Colorado. It honors the legacy of Jean Otto, a long-time editor and reader representative at the Rocky Mountain News who founded the CFOIC in 1987 and was a tireless advocate for First Amendment and freedom-of-information rights.

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October 25, 2016 10:04 AM

Official reports released recently reveal that black people accounted for nearly 80 percent of those stopped by Charlottesville police so far this year.

On Wednesday, results of a Freedom of Information request revealed that there have been 97 stops this year — as of Oct. 15. Of those stops, 74 involved individuals who were black, while 22 involved people who were white. One individual’s race was listed as “unknown.”

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October 25, 2016 10:01 AM

Civil rights advocates filed a lawsuit in San Francisco on Thursday against the federal government in an attempt to get information about how many detained asylum seekers are denied parole and how such decisions were made.

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings College of the Law and others want to know why fewer asylum seekers are being offered parole.

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October 24, 2016 12:36 PM

It's no longer a secret that police have conducted surveillance on activists involved in the Movement for Black Lives. Increasingly, these activists say they want to know exactly what's in the files the government may be keeping on them.

Color of Change, a national racial justice group, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York on Thursday, over the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's rejection of its request for surveillance information on Black Lives Matter activists. The group originally made the request for agency records on July 5, under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Seeing the government fighting us so strongly on what is supposed to be a pillar of American democracy — accountability to the public — indicates to us that our government believes that black people are not entitled, as Americans, to know how our government treats us on account of our race," Color of Change media and economic justice director Brandi Collins said in a email statement.

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October 24, 2016 12:28 PM

The City of Bloomington, Illinois, is facing a lawsuit over alleged violations of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA is a transparency law that’s intended to give citizens insights and data about their government and allow them to access important relevant documents and records from any federal agency.

Matthew Topic, the attorney from Loevy & Loevy representing plaintiffs Tammy Alexander and Raymond Wilson in the case, said the lawsuit, filed on Sept 30, arose because the city allegedly is withholding nonexempt public records regarding a murder case.

“It stems back to the conviction of a man named Jamie Snow for murder quite a number of years ago,” Topic said. “There have been several advocates who have been working very hard to try to get information about that investigation and uncover evidence that might show that Mr. Snow was wrongfully convicted.”

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October 24, 2016 12:23 PM

Two proposed amendments to the Miami-Dade charter would let cities establish special taxing districts for private neighborhoods and could make it easier for members of the public to copy government records.

Florida law requires governments to provide copies of public records, rather than just allow people to inspect them. Miami-Dade governments must follow state law when it comes to records, so county residents already have a right to copy public documents and other materials.

But the Citizens’ Bill of Rights in the county charter outlines a narrower requirement for public records, mentioning only that they be “open for inspection” at reasonable times. The proposed charter amendment would add the phrase “and copying, consistent with the requirements of the State of Florida’s public record laws.”

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October 21, 2016 9:14 AM

After one county commissioner released confidential records to protest county meetings with utility companies, the rest of the commissioners are left scratching their heads.

Commissioner Sean Conway recently released emails, which detailed the county’s attorney giving the board legal advice before a planned September meeting with Xcel Energy, alleging the meeting was a kind of unethically private correspondence called ex parte communication. The emails went public this week when a conservative blog published them.

“If there truly was an issue, I don’t know why he was at (that) meeting,” Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said, noting Conway didn’t seem concerned enough to skip the meeting. Conway is known for missing meetings he disagrees with. As an example, he did not attend a county training this summer in Breckenridge, stating the travel expense was excessive.

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October 21, 2016 9:03 AM

A new state law that requires banks to report and secure abandoned houses has been hailed as sweeping legislation for combating blight, but the most sweeping aspect of the law may be a section that keeps the information secret.

The so-called “zombie properties” law requires the Department of Financial Services to keep a registry of vacant properties. But DFS must treat the information as confidential, exempt it from the state Freedom of Information Law and restrict access even to elected officials.

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October 21, 2016 9:00 AM

The year 2016 has found us in the thick of major policy debates. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana is playing a leadership role in helping determine the future direction of the state on critical issues concerning government budgets, taxes and economic development. PAR’s analysis, commentary, public outreach and participation on several key task force initiatives are making an important contribution toward shaping the discussion and building consensus for meaningful recommendations for positive, long-term change.

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