Sign up for the Open Government eNewsletter
We warmly welcome your thoughts on og-blog and especially welcome your emails with suggested postings and links to interesting stories and court cases. If you have something to say about open government in Washington State, sending it to og-blog is probably the best way to get it out. Don’t hesitate to contact us at

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tri-City Herald Editorial on Homeland Security FOIA

The Tri-City Herald writes this editorial on the Department of Homeland Security's past practice of letting political appointees review FOIA requests and, apparently, involving them in the responses.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Op-Ed on Legislative Transparency

Jason Mericer of the Washington Policy Center writes this op-ed in the Seattle Times on the Legislature's woeful lack of transparency.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Important Public Records Act Ruling: City of Lakewood v. Koenig

The City of Lakewood sent aggressive (intimidating?) discovery requests to a public records requestor. The Court of Appeals said that wasn't OK. NOTE: Michele Earl-Hubbard and Chris Roslaniec of Allied Law Group filed an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in support of the requestor.

Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin had this editorial on the Legislature's terribly habit of passing "title only" bills. They are bills that have no text, just a title (like "An act relating to public records disclosure"). Then, after some deal is cut in a back room, the Legislature "amends" the title only bill to add the text of the law the people in the back room decided to pass. No public input, no hearings, no time to consider alternatives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Political Meddling" in Delays of DHS Records

This is interesting.

Large "Anonymous" Request

The Spokesman-Review has this piece on a large "anonymous" request to the Spokane County Assessor.

NOTE: The story quotes Greg Overstreet of Allied Law Group.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Local Gov't Objects to 72-Hour Notice Requirement for Public Meeting Agendas

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center has this update on SB 5553, a bill to require agendas of public meetings to be posted in advance (so the public can know what's going to happen at the meeting).

Based on the House committee Chair's comment, SB 5553, which passed 48-1 in the Senate, will not get out of committee in the house.

Here is the video of the hearing. Local government's opposition to the 72-hour requirement is at the 54:06 mark.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Columbian Article on Big Requests

This piece from The (Vancouver) Columbian examines the problem of a large records request.

The people give state and local government enormous powers and billions of dollars. Spending thousands of dollars responding to an occasional large request is part of the deal. If you don't want the billions, we'll let you keep the thousands ...

Legislative Secrecy: Title Only Bills

The Legislature has a terrible habit of introducing "title only" bills. They just have the title of a bill (like "An act relating to ...") but no actual text. This allows deals to be cut behind closed doors and text to be added to the bill at the last minute. Literally, the last minute. So no one--neither the public nor the minority party--can read it before it's passed.

The Washington Policy Center's Jason Mercier describes why this is a bad way to pass the "people's" laws because it allows the Legislature to do what they want without the "people" getting any say in it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Columbian Editorial on Vancouver's New Open Meeting Rules

This editorial from The (Vancouver) Columbian describes a new rule adopted by the Vancouver City Council on public comments at open meetings.

Oregon Launches Open Gov't Web Site

The State of Oregon has created a web site that it claims allows citizens to see some public records without requesting them.

We've always said that the "burdens" of responding to some public records requests can be alleviated by posting commonly requested records on line.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bill Requiring Agencies to Post Agendas Passes Senate

This piece from the pro-agency Local Open Government Blog describes SSB 5553 which requires agencies to post agendas and minutes of public meetings online. The Local Open Government Blog raises concerns about the bill.

We think the bill is great. You should contact your House representative and urge passage of SSB 5553.

Monday, March 21, 2011

KING 5 Piece "Does Gov't Spend Too Much Time Disclosing Records?"

This is interesting.

U.S. Supreme Court Lets Lower Ruling Stand Requiring Disclosure of Bank Bailout Records

We can now see how hundreds of billions of our dollars were utilized.

Sunshine Week: Wrap Up

Here are some pieces from the end of Sunshine Week:
  • A column by Karen Peterson of The (Tacoma) News Tribune.
  • An op-ed piece by State Auditor Sonntag and Attorney General McKenna in the Tri-City Herald.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sunshine Week: Thursday

A piece from yesterday and today:
  • The Olympian editorial on some bright spots and concerns about recent bills.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunshine Week: Wednesday

Here are the pieces on Sunshine week from yesterday and today:
  • The Washington Post reports that President Obama is receiving an open-government award despite his administration's mixed (some say, poor) record.
  • An editorial from The (Vancouver) Columbian on Sunshine Week.
  • A Seattle Times piece on a Sunshine Week forum in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunshine Week: Tuesday

Here are some items from today and yesterday:
  • Olympian piece on Sunshine Week
  • Washington Coalition for Open Government's award of a Key Award to Gloria Howell, who used public records to uncover alleged corruption by a county official

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunshine Week

It's that time of year. Sunshine week is this week.

It's a national effort. We'll have lots of things up on og-blog this week.

Articles, Editorials, and Op-Eds

Here are the pieces from today and this weekend:
  • AP piece on the horrible bills in the Legislature this year.
  • Jason Mercier's op-ed in the Bellingham Herald and the Wenatchee World on legislative transparency. Here is Mercier's model language for a solution to the problem.
  • Tri-City Herald story on the town of Mesa, nearly bankrupted because of its flagrant Public Records Act violations.
  • Kitsap Sun editorial on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a FOIA case involving records in Kitsap County.
  • Yakima Herald-Republic editorial on Sunshine Week.
  • The (Everett) Herald editorial on legislative transparency and Sunshine Week.
  • AP piece on President Obama's failure to deliver on promises of more openness in the federal government.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public Records Show ... School Bus Driver Accused of Past Violence Against Children

The (Everett) Herald has this story, which could only be presented because of access to public records.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kelso Pays $3,336 to Prisoner for Public Records Violation

The (Longview) Daily News reports that a prisoner, who made numerous records requests to the City of Kelso but didn't receive any response, has settled a Public Records Act suit for $3,336.

Before you say, "Prisoners shouldn't get public records let alone $3,336," look at the records he requested. They related to his arrest. If people can't find get records about their own arrest, we're all worse off.

Monday, March 7, 2011

! Big Win in U.S. Supreme Court for Washington State Records Requestor !

Milner v. U.S. Dep't of Navy is out. This is great. The government's attempted misuse of FOIA here was preposterous.

Kudos to Seattle attorney Kathy George for working on this.

Clark County Open Meetings Question

The (Vancouver) Columbian reports on a meeting of two out of three Clark County Commissioners had with Congressmen concerning a transportation project.

The County says that there was no violation of the Open Public Meetings Act because they didn't transact County business. Well, all they need to do is "discuss" County business and it's a meeting subject to the Open Public Meetings Act. Did those Congressmen have a meeting to talk about the weather?

State Auditor's Office Puts Public Records Online

It can be done! Public records available without even asking for them, and without the agency having to spend it's time and money finding them.

The State Auditor's Office is doing so. They are putting up commonly asked for records such as the Seattle Public School District audit.

Spokesman-Review Editorial on Opening Up Congressional Research Service Records

The Spokesman-Review writes this editorial about Congressional Research Service records. They are currently exempt from FOIA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Legislative Transparency

The Yakima Herald-Republic writes this editorial on the lack of transparency in the Washington Legislature.