FOI Advocate News Blog

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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

April 23, 2015 1:37 PM

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will hold a statewide meeting via telephone Thursday to educate the public about the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

The meeting will be the first in a series of informational meetings, both traditional and webcast, to inform Arkansans about the Freedom of Information Act.

"Arkansas has a strong FOIA that is regarded across the country as one of the best at holding government accountable and helping citizens stay informed," Rutledge said in a news release. "As the people's lawyer, I am committed to protecting the democratic ideal of an open and transparent government and helping educate Arkansans about the FOIA. I am excited to use technology in an innovative way to help bring Arkansans closer to their government." Continue>>>

April 23, 2015 1:29 PM

Buried in a massive Pew study on the public's feelings about data and open government is this amazing nugget: Just 23 percent trust the federal government to do the right thing "at least most of the time."

Twenty three percent! That's unpopularity-of-Congress territory. Journalist-trust territory! Donald Trump's approval ratings look down on those numbers!

Not surprisingly, how you feel about the federal government depends somewhat on your party affiliation. Twice as many Democrats as Republicans say they trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, a function of the fact that the "government" is currently represented, symbolically speaking, by a Democratic president. Those splits would likely reverse themselves if a Republican was in the White House. Continue>>>

April 23, 2015 1:25 PM

Ohioans should not have to bear the expense and aggravation of going to court to force government officials to comply with the open records law, state Auditor Dave Yost believes. To make it easier to get documents, Yost announced a month ago he was establishing a "Sunshine Audit" program.

But for every champion in government of the public's right to know, there are dozens of opponents - officials who see it as a good thing that Ohioans sometimes can be denied access to information about how their tax dollars are being spent. With speed and efficiency seldom seen in government, some legislators are poised to shut down Yost's program before it gets off the ground.

Yost has a simple idea: Currently, if state agencies refuse to hand over documents sought by members of the public, recourse is limited. Those seeking the documents can go to court, but that can be expensive in both time and money. Most people just give up trying to get government records. Public officials know that. They understand that stonewalling, even in the knowledge they are violating the open records law, often can turn away requests for information. Continue>>>

April 23, 2015 1:19 PM

President Barack Obama once proclaimed his administration to be the most transparent in history, but a new survey suggests Americans have mixed thoughts on whether new initiatives to open government and its data will make a significant difference in holding the powerful accountable.

A report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center, in conjunction with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found that most Americans are not engaged with using government data sources. Just 7 percent say local governments share their information effectively.

Even fewer — 5 percent of more than 3,000 American adults surveyed — think federal government agencies are doing a very effective job sharing the data they collect. Continue>>>

April 23, 2015 1:15 PM

Times have changed since government officials picked up quill pens when they wanted to send one another a message.
But the principles behind our open government laws remain the same. The public’s business ought to be conducted in public.

That precept has followed pen and paper to the typewriter and carbon paper to the fax machine to computers and email. Continue>>>

April 23, 2015 1:13 PM

Hartford officials have admitted they violated various aspects of the state's open meetings law last year when they held a closed-door meeting to discuss proposals to build a new minor league baseball stadium.

Last August, the city assembled a panel including members of the public to interview prospective developers and "help frame the recommendation to the city council." But a notice of that meeting was not posted in advance, and the meeting wasn't open to the public.

At the meeting, the panel met with three developers, one of which -- Centerplan Development Company -- was eventually selected. Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:57 PM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked an Alaska federal judge Friday to toss a lawsuit accusing it of withholding documents related to its decision to stop what could be one of the largest copper mines in the country.

Plaintiff Pebble Limited Partnership is seeking the disclosure of records related to the potential mining project near Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska. The EPA said it properly processed the Freedom of Information Act request and released all responsive records to Pebble except for some that fall under statutory exemptions.

Pebble submitted a FOIA request to the EPA in January 2014 seeking documents containing any communication on the Pebble Mine or the agency’s Bristol Bay assessment, which examined the potential impacts of large-scale mining development on Bristol Bay fisheries and wildlife and on regional Alaska Native cultures. Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:54 PM

State Sen. Dan Duffy is fighting to move forward a bill to reform the Illinois Open Meetings Act in the wake of a closed-session debacle over a now-scuttled proposal for a power plant in Oakwood Hills.

House Bill 175 seeks to create a two-year statute of limitations on the ability by the public to report potential violations of the act within 60 days of their discovery. The bill, filed by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Lake Barrington, passed the House a month ago on a 110-0 vote, and has now moved to the Senate Executive Committee.

Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, said he has been pressuring senators to advance the bill for a vote before the end of session May 31. Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:49 PM

As the fight over records in a high-profile Vanderbilt University rape case heads to the Tennessee Supreme Court, state and Metro lawyers are arguing against the release of the case files that remain under seal.

The Tennessean, eight media organizations and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government filed suit against Metro Nashville in fall 2013 seeking records in the hands of police, including text messages between Vanderbilt football players and coaches.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals partially ruled against the media coalition, but the state's highest court agreed to review the case, setting a May 28 date for oral arguments. Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:46 PM

The Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins, established with a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, aims to assist more than 100 U.S. cities in creating data infrastructures to transform the way their governments operate. The center is part of the university's 21st Century Cities Initiative, a university signature initiative that brings together city leaders and top researchers to confront the pressing needs of revitalizing cities throughout the country and abroad.

"Our focus is on resilient cities both here and around the world. We want to study 21st-century possibilities and challenges, and to adopt 21st-century solutions," says Kathryn Edin, a sociologist in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, who has been named director of the 21CC initiative. Edin has guided the organizational, financial, and investigatory growth of 21CC, formerly named the Johns Hopkins Institute for the American City, since joining the faculty last year as a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor.

"Imagine a city whose infrastructure is crumbling," she says. "The 20th-century solution is to dig up pipes, repair them, and put them back in the ground. In the 21st century, we'd want to think bigger than that." Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:42 PM

The debate is underway in D.C. over making footage from police body cameras public.

City officials say a big challenge is blurring out certain images which they view as private.

The proposal by the mayor's office to keep all footage private is meeting resistance with the president of the D.C. Police Union as well as several government watchdog groups. Continue>>>

April 22, 2015 12:39 PM

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has blocked an attempt by a lawmaker and a leading open government advocate to publicize the "secret" email address the governor uses to conduct public business.

But the governor's top lawyer acknowledged that Markell's pseudonym is among the "worst-kept secrets in state government," saying that members of the media, including The News Journal, have requested records from the account.

Markell has emailed using the address since his first term in office. Continue>>>

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