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 12, 2016 1:47 PM

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana released the PAR Guide to the 2016 Constitutional Amendments. The Guide explains the potential impact of the six constitutional amendments that the public will consider on the Nov. 8 ballot statewide. This objective review will help voters understand the issues and the potential changes so they may develop their own positions on each proposition. View here.

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October 12, 2016 1:36 PM

In 2011, speaking impassionately to an audience at CERN – one of the world’s largest institutions for nuclear physics research, headquartered in Geneva – Lessig, a professor of law at Harvard Law School and a political activist, highlighted the crisis of access to scientific scholarship. Indeed, over the last six decades, public access to scholarly works has diminished. Works that can be freely searched and read represent only a sliver of the entire wealth of human knowledge.

With the emergence of academic journals in the seventeenth century, the practice of exchanging manuscripts for review and comments became popular, leading to the establishment of the peer-review system. In fact, until the eighteenth century, there existed a strong belief in the intellectual commons and traditions of sharing knowledge between scholars. These traditions dated back to scholarship flourishing in ancient Greece. Open access was the default, and not the exception to the norm. Continue...

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October 12, 2016 1:22 PM

Protecting the identity of current and past New Canaan officials who fear retribution or embarrassment in the community if their true opinions became known is a weightier public interest than letting the identities and opinions be known to the electorate. New Canaan Charter Revision Commission Chairman David Hunt and member Penny Young told a Connecticut Freedom of Information hearing officer on Tuesday that this was a primary reason for the Charter Revision Commission (CRC) withholding such information from the public.

These are “real concerns in a small town,” Hunt said. Continue...

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October 12, 2016 1:05 PM

Of the 17 candidates seeking to represent Portland in the Maine Legislature, only two have signed a pledge to support open government if elected.

Maine House of Representatives candidates Rachel Talbot-Ross, a Democrat, and James Azzola, a Republican, are the sole would-be Portland legislators to put their names on a pledge that the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition sent to every candidate in the state — although it entails little more than obeying existing law. Continue...

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October 11, 2016 12:03 PM

The White House announced the creation of 29 tools Thursday that use Federal and local data to address problems identified by Federal agencies as part of the Opportunity Project, an open data effort to improve economic mobility for all Americans.

The Department of Energy said that educational equity is a national priority. In order to achieve educational equity, Data Society and Kitamba built the Philadelphia School Resource Mapper. The Mapper uses Census Bureau, Health and Human Services, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services data to help schools create partnerships and identify where non-profit organizations can make the greatest impact. Continue...

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October 11, 2016 10:35 AM

Kansas City tech firm mySidewalk is working with the White House. 

The firm on Friday announced its participation in The Opportunity Project, an initiative that will use open data in efforts to expand opportunity for all.

The project was established in March to put data tools in the hands of civic leaders across the country. The mission is to make it easier for leaders to navigate information on critical resources such as access to jobs, housing, transportation and schools. Continue...

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October 11, 2016 10:27 AM

WASHINGTON ― Hillary Clinton’s campaign team once considering trying to recruit an ally on Capitol Hill to introduce a bill that would end the Freedom of Information Act exemption that applies to members of Congress.

The ideal candidate, senior spokesman Jesse Ferguson suggested in a March 2015 email conversation released by Wikileaks on Monday, would be a person in the House of Representatives who is “either an HRC advocate OR someone who wants to make a name for themselves on good government/transparency (and doesn’t mind pissing some people off).” Continue...

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October 10, 2016 11:09 AM

News Release

2016 FOI Summit Concludes – Challenges to public records access in a digital age among top issues

October 10, 2016

Contact: Dan Bevarly • 239.823.1811

dbevarly@nfoic.org

The National Freedom of Information Coalitionconcluded its 2016 FOI Summit in Washington D.C. This year’s summit featured an enlightened discussion, “FOIA at 50,” on the past, present and future of the Freedom of Information Act that included author, activist and government watchdog Ralph Nader. Nader presented a number of controversial government actions that were only exposed by using FOIA to obtain information.

The annual two-day event featured presentations from FOI experts --many who direct their state’s FOI organizations and are affiliate members of NFOIC. Among the presentations which included policing transparency, open data, proactive disclosure, attorney fees, FOI litigation and advocacy campaigns, was the continually growing challenge for government to manage, and for open records petitioners to obtain public information in an increasing digital age.

Each year, the summit includes the induction ceremony of a new member into the State Open Government Hall of Fame, a joint initiative of NFOIC and the Society of Professional Journalists. This year’s inductee is Sam D. Kennedy, a longtime First Amendment proponent and active FOI advocate of Tennessee state and local government.  Best-selling author and national investigative journalist Charles Lewis, gave the keynote speech. Lewis is the executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.  

NFOIC announced new state members that joined NFOIC this year from California and South Carolina. NFOIC has 42 state and regional members representing 46 states. “Our goal is to have coalition members in all 50 states,” said NFOIC President Mal Leary, who is also vice president of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition. “

NFOIC announced the following board directors have been re-elected for new, three year terms:

·         Mark Horvit, Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism

·         Mal Leary, Senior Political Correspondent for Mainepublic.org

·         Sara Nordgren, Director, Content Development and Alliances, The Associated Press

·         Mitchell Pearlman, Lecturer in Law and Journalism at the University of Connecticut

 

Current NFOIC president, Mal Leary and current treasurer Mark Horvit were both unanimously elected to serve new, two-year terms. Michael Morisy, co-founder of Muckrock was elected to the board for a three-year term.

NFOIC recognizes the summit’s financial sponsors and thanks Bloomberg,  the John S. and James L Knight Foundation, the Associated Press, the Bauman Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism, and the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri for their generous financial and in-kind support.

Next year’s site for the 2017 FOI Summit will be Nashville, TN in October. The Tennessee Coalition of Open Government will be the summit co-host.

October 7, 2016 1:23 PM

Exposing the industry’s standard practices, Wolf argues, generates a demand for change from legislators and, perhaps more significant, from major restaurant chains. In 2012, for instance, after the Humane Society of the United States released undercover footage of pregnant sows immobilized for months in narrow “gestation crates” at a Smithfield Foods subsidiary, McDonald’s announced that its breakfast sausage would no longer be made from pork bred in gestation crates — and Smithfield, along with other major pork producers, raced to announce that it was phasing the devices out. The industry opposes undercover investigations, Wolf says, precisely because they work.

Continue...

October 7, 2016 1:20 PM

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to take up the question of whether a district attorney's office is a judicial agency under the state's open records law, granting Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller's petition for an appeal.

The justices granted allocatur Wednesday in Parks Miller v. County of Centre. The case stems from Parks Miller's 2015 petition for an injunction, which the trial court granted, enjoining the county government from releasing certain records from the Centre County District Attorney's Office. But the Commonwealth Court later reversed that ruling, leading to Parks Miller's appeal.

In taking the appeal, the Supreme Court agreed to consider whether "district attorneys and their offices constitute 'judicial agencies' as defined under Section 102 of the Right-to-Know Law."

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October 7, 2016 1:18 PM

On June 30, 2016, President Obama signed into law the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016, which contains several substantive and procedural amendments to the FOIA. As a part of the amendments, new reporting requirements were added for agency Annual FOIA Reports. Today OIP has published guidance to assist agencies in meeting these new requirements. Additionally, to assist agencies with their reporting obligations for the upcoming year, OIP is also announcing the deadlines for the submission of agencies' Fiscal Year 2016 Annual FOIA Reports, 2017 Chief FOIA Officer Reports, and Fiscal Year 2017 Quarterly FOIA Reports.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 added three new requirements concerning agencies' Annual FOIA Reports. Agencies must now:

  • Proactively make available the raw data elements used in the creation of their final Annual FOIA Report,
  • Include in their Annual FOIA Report the number of times an exclusion was used, and
  • Include in their Annual FOIA Report the number of records that were made available for public inspection under subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA (proactive disclosures).

Continue... 

October 6, 2016 10:50 AM

The Chicago Police Department has settled a lawsuit that sought records showing how it has used secret cellular tracking systems — known by several brand names including StingRay, the lawyer who filed the case said Tuesday.

Continue...

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