Column: Flint case shows records should be open to all

Virginians should be immensely proud of a Virginia Tech professor and his research team’s members for their role in exposing the poisoning of Flint, Mich., residents who were forced to drink toxic water that was laced with dangerously high levels of lead.

The leader of the team is civil engineering professor Marc Edwards. He volunteered his time and considerable money (estimated at $150,000 of his own funds) after being contacted last summer by a Flint mother who conducted an Internet search for help after becoming concerned about the water coming into her home.

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Coalition seeks more open state government

Seventeen organizations that support open government in Virginia have formed a coalition to increase transparency in the General Assembly and foster greater citizen participation.

The coalition, called Transparency Virginia, wants legislators to give more advance notice of committee and subcommittee meetings and to record the votes when panels quietly kill bills.

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Open government advocate: Hold meetings when more residents are able to attend

Of the 28 official Danville boards and commissions listed on the city’s website, about half of them hold meetings during work-day hours — while open to the public, most people with daytime jobs would find them difficult to attend.
Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said while her organization does not have a “best practices” stance on what time government bodies should hold their meetings at the most convenient times possible for the largest number of people.

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Bill moves to study FOIA exemptions

Want to know what your government is really up to?

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows citizens of the commonwealth (and representatives of the media) to gain access to numerous records held by state and local agencies, government officials and other public authorities, along with providing the right to attend public meetings.

The presumption of the FOIA is that all records and all meetings are to be open to the public — unless there is a special exemption specifying secrecy.

Sounds good, right?

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Local School Board addresses FOIA request and processes for getting out info

The Shenandoah County School Board responded to recent news about Freedom of Information Act requests for employee salary data at its meeting Thursday night.

In December, District 4 Supervisor Cindy Bailey had asked for detailed salary data of school employees and did not want to pay the $700 price that Division Superintendent Jeremy Raley had quoted for producing the data. The price was said to be proportionate to the time and resources used to fulfill the request. Bailey's request failed to draw support from the county's board of supervisors.

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