2021 Summit Agenda

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

12:00 PM-9:00 PM

Welcome Video: FOI Summit 2021

Speakers: Todd Fettig (he/him), Erika Benton

1:00 PM-2:00 PM

Government transparency: Lessons from the pandemic

Speakers: Tom Verdin, Gunita Singh, David Snyder, Tonu Basu

Join experts in public records, open meetings and press access to discuss how the pandemic changed the way governments respond to document requests and how public bodies and courts altered access and the rules for participation. While some changes have created pathways for expanded public involvement, many others have led to restrictions that hamper the ability of the public and press to fulfill their watchdog roles on elected bodies and government agencies. Some of the restrictions have begun to be lifted, but others endure as we approach the second anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic. To provide a global perspective to the changes in the U.S., the panel also will explore how the pandemic has transformed transparency efforts abroad.

1:00 PM-2:00 PM

Members-Only: Effective Advocacy

Speakers: Terry Mutchler, Joy Ramsingh

2:00 PM-3:00 PM

Data Deserts: How to close gaps in minority, rural, and tribal communities

Speakers: Daniel Delgado, Sara Sneath, Sunnie Clahchischiligi, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

3:00 PM-4:00 PM

FOI Research Papers Presentation

Speakers: Virgina Hamrick, A.Jay Wagner, Amy Kristin Sanders, Lynn Wyeth, Julia Amerikaner, Ben Wasike

1. Requiring a Response: Why Governments Should Have to Acknowledge Public Records Requests, by Amy Kristin Sanders, University of Texas – Austin, and Daxton “Chip” Stewart. Analysis of state public record laws shows that just four states require agencies to acknowledge a public records request, more than 20% of state laws do not provide a deadline for a response, about 20% require a response within a vague “prompt” period, and the majority of laws include a specific day deadline, ranging from three to 30 days. The authors provide recommended statutory language to improve the process for requesters. 

2. Determinants of Fiscal Transparency and Right to Information Reforms: An Exploratory Study of Provincial Governments in Argentina, by Julia Amerikaner, London School of Economics and Political Science. Analysis of data from Argentina provinces suggests that transparency is associated with political and socioeconomic factors, but not government digital capacity, citizen Internet access, or press visibility.

3. Whose Public Virtue? Exploring FOI Efficacy and Support, by A.Jay Wagner, Marquette University. A survey of 1,116 U.S. residents indicates that people who support freedom of information the most tend to be more educated, liberal, and male. Those who identify as Black were found least supportive of FOI as a government priority, which challenges transparency advocates to examine the social and power dynamics of the field, and how FOI is perceived and used in the United States – a tool of empowerment for all or for those in power to maintain power?

4. Eliminating a Barrier to Access: Waiving or Reducing Fees for Public Records in Florida, by Virginia Hamrick, Florida First Amendment Foundation. Analysis of public record logs of state agencies in Florida found that only 12% of requesters qualify for a copy fee waiver, concluding that cities should be open to statutory amendments allowing fee waivers for requesters working in the public interest.

5.United Kingdom Freedom of Information Act 2000, Local Government, and Everyday Regimes of Practice, by Lynn Wyeth, De Montfort University. Interviews of 17 public record custodians in English towns demonstrate how custodians develop processes based on word of mouth and sharing best practices. Suggests that coordinated nationwide guidance and training are provided to increase consistency across municipalities.

4:00 PM-5:00 PM

Universities and other public institutions: How do they slide under the radar, and what can be done?

Speakers: Sara Ganim, Andy Thomason, Daniel Libit, Miranda Spivack

5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Strategies for improving FOIA responses, without litigation

Speakers: Grace Cheng, Michael Morisy, Michael Ravnitzky, James Holzer, Colleen Murphy

6:00 PM-7:00 PM

Mixer: Cocktail Hour

Speakers: Todd Fettig (he/him), Erika Benton

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

10:30 AM-11:30 AM

Roundtable: Seeing FOI through Millennial and Gen Z eyes

Speakers: Nabiha Syed, Lam Thuy Vo, Azmat Khan, Ava Lubell

11:00 AM-11:00 AM

Members-Only: Billtrack50 Training

Speaker: Karen Suhaka

1:30 PM-2:30 PM

Accessing police misconduct records and best systems for tracking them

Speakers: Freddy Martinez, Rajiv Sinclair, Sam Stecklow, Maya Dukmasova

3:00 PM-3:30 PM

Principles and the Future of FOI with Senator Patrick Leahy

Speaker: Sen. Patrick Leahy

4:00 PM-5:00 PM

Paywalling of documents and data: Are private third-party vendors and claims of copyright putting records out of reach?

Speakers: Frank LoMonte, Cara Gagliano, Haru Coryne

4:00 PM-5:00 PM

Roundtable: Seeing FOI through BIPOC eyes (Pre-recorded)

Speakers: Melissa Wasser, Gunita Singh, Mia Woodard, Lance Sims

Examine and analyze the impact FOIA and FOI laws have on BIPOC communities.

5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Training: Google Tracks SPJ

Speaker: Benet J. Wilson

5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Members-Only: Getting the Most out of Social Media

Speakers: Carrie Lanman, Erika Benton

6:00 PM-7:00 PM

Mixer: Restorative Yoga with Katie

Speaker: Katie Bohnett

Join Katie Bohnett for an hour of restorative yoga Wednesday evening. This is a great way to give yourself a mental and physical break from the conference demands and to reset your mind and body for the agenda ahead. This gentle flow will allow you to exercise every major muscle group in the body while connecting with your breath, body, and mind. A great way to take a mental vacation, and it will surely revive you and send you off into a productive remainder of your conference. This practice can be done in your home or office, and feel free to use a yoga mat (if you have one) or a towel or blanket will work too.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

11:00 AM-12:00 PM

Members-only: How to Break the Cycle of Grant Dependency

Speaker: Tamela Spicer

12:00 PM-1:00 PM

How Can More Informed and Diverse Public Engagement with Government Foster Greater FOI?

Speakers: Valerie Lemmie, Amanda Kastl, Luke Britt, Martin G. Reynolds, Tricia Thomas

12:00 PM-1:00 PM

200K Cold Cases Aren’t Going to Solve Themselves

Speakers: Ashlee Fujawa, Dana Poll, Sarah Turney, Maggie Freleng

Learn why public records and collective impact are crucial in uncovering answers in unsolved cases of the murdered and missing. 

1:30 PM-2:30 PM

Hall-of-Fame Ceremony

Speakers: Megan Rhyne

Inductees: Barbara Petersen, Bill Lueders, Craig Staudenmaier, Jane Briggs-Bunting (posthumously)

The State Open Government Hall of Fame recognizes the long-term contributions of individuals to open government in their respective states. Induction recognizes the “long and steady effort to preserve and protect the free flow of information about state and local government that is vital to the public in a democracy.” The Hall of Fame began in 2003. Since then, inductees from 20 states have been honored for their commitment to protecting citizens’ rights to public information. 

3:00 PM-4:00 PM

From Local Records to National Stories: The impact of public records campaigns and access

Speakers: Andre Natta, DeRay Mckesson, Jessica Huseman, Peter Eisler

We usually look at public records requests as individual filings, but increasingly journalists, researchers, and community organizers are using them to gather and analyze massive data sets that help us better understand policing, public health, and numerous other issues that impact the public. Panelists will share a little bit about their large-scale data-gathering efforts and the importance of being able to gather and compare information across jurisdictions, as well as tips for how to make these kinds of investigations go more smoothly and better involve the public in understanding how critical they are to informing the public and shaping policy.

5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Saving the Freedom of Information Act: Book Discussion with Margaret Kwoka

Speakers: Margaret Kwoka, Mark Horvit

Margaret Kwoka discusses her soon-to-be-released book, “Saving the Freedom of Information Act.” Here’s a description: “Enacted in 1966, The Freedom of Information Act (or FOIA) was designed to promote oversight of governmental activities, under the notion that most users would be journalists. Today, however, FOIA is largely used for purposes other than fostering democratic accountability. Instead, most requesters are either individuals seeking their own files, businesses using FOIA as part of commercial enterprises, or others with idiosyncratic purposes like political opposition research. In this sweeping, empirical study, Margaret Kwoka documents how agencies have responded to the large volume of non-oversight requesters by creating new processes, systems, and specialists, which in turn has had a deleterious impact on journalists and the media. To address this problem, Kwoka proposes a series of structural solutions aimed at shrinking FOIA to re-center its oversight purposes.”

6:00 PM-7:00 PM

Mixer: Meditation & Mindfulness

Speaker: Nicholas Whitaker

7:00 PM-7:00 PM

Members Meeting

Speaker: Todd Fettig (he/him)