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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Publicola Piece on Seattle's Claim That Texts Are Not "Public Records"

Publicola has a great piece on why the (techo-savvy and ultra hip) City of Seattle needs to get into the 2010s and realize that texts are a "public record."

Thanks to Ms. Shmackenberry for sending this to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allied Law Group on Facebook

We wanted to let you know that Allied Law Group has a really good Facebook page. We provide links to state and national open-government stories there. In fact, our Facebook page contains lots of links to national stories that we don't put on og-blog. We try to keep og-blog focused on Washington state, with occasional forays into national issues.

So check out our Facebook page and sign up to be a fan.

If you don't have a Facebook account, you won't be able to use our Facebook page. You can sign up for Facebook (it's free) here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

City of Seattle: Texts Not a "Public Record"

The City of Seattle (but not the City Attorney's Office) is claiming texts are not a "public record."

Oh, how wrong the City is.

A "public record" is a writing "containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics." RCW 42.56.010(2).

In turn, a "writing" is: "handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, and every other means of recording any form of communication or representation including, but not limited to, letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combination thereof, and all papers, maps, magnetic or paper tapes, photographic films and prints, motion picture, film and video recordings, magnetic or punched cards, discs, drums, diskettes, sound recordings, and other documents including existing data compilations from which information may be obtained or translated." RCW 42.56.010(3) (emphasis added).

The City may not be retaining the texts, but they should be.

Grays Harbor County Withholds/Delays Audit Report

Parts of an audit report of the Grays Harbor Planning Department is being withheld by the County and release of the rest of it is being delayed reports The (Aberdeen) Daily World.

City of Everett Adopts New Open Meetings Procedures

The City of Everett is, at least on paper, trying to be more open in its decision making.

We will take them at their word, but we will also let you know if they don't follow through.

City of Tacoma Settles Open Meetings Suit by Paper

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune sued the City of Tacoma over a decision made in a closed-to-the-public executive session.

And won.

Some States Considering Ban on Releasing 911 Recordings

States like Alabama, Ohio, and Wisconsin are considering legislation to ban the release of 911 recordings.

Bad idea. The public learns a great deal about how its government is operating--or not--by having these recordings. Like the times a victim makes multiple calls to 911, law enforcement doesn't show up, and the victim is killed. Gruesome as it is, we need to know these things so we can make sure it doesn't happen to someone else. No records, no accountability.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Constitutional Sunshine

Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center writes this blog piece on constitutional sunshine.

Seattle Times Editorial on Killing HB 1317 and SB 6747

The Seattle Times writes this editorial on why HB 1317 (withholding law enforcement photos) and SB 6747 (excessive fees for access to DNR information) should not be passed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Special records access for media? No thanks"

We wondered which newspaper would be the first to editorialize against the trend this legislative session of attempting to close off access to public records to everyone but the media.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune is the first. A great editorial.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Olympian Editorial on Transit Video Bill

Wow, the first sentence of this editorial in The Olympia is true.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bill to Make Transit Videos Public

Caleb Hannan of the Seattle Weekly blogs about a bill to make some transit videos public. Sort of. Available to the media only.

This is an example of what those videos show. Guards watching as a girl is beaten.

Senate Passes Bill to Make Initiative Petitions Public

Jason Schrader of The (Tacoma) News-Tribune blogs about the Senate's passage of the bill to make it clear that signed initiative petitions are subject to disclosure.

Spokesman-Review Editorial on HB 1317 (Cop Photo Bill)

The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review writes this editorial on HB 1317's passage in the House.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monroe Finally Coughs Up Records--5 Years and Maybe $200,000 Later

The (Everett) Herald has this story on Meredith Mechling's five-year quest to get some emails from the City of Monroe about an ethics panel. She has prevailed at the Court of Appeals and a few months ago sent the City a settlement offer for her attorneys' fees and penalties for a little under $200,000.

Other people's money. The only way to explain a five-year fight and eventually paying a six-figure amount to keep emails secret for years. Consider this from the city's perspective: Why "give in" (also known as "follow the law") when you can use other people's money to fight. On and on.

Consider this example the next time someone tells you local government is the "victim" under the Public Records Act. Some would say all the Meredith Mechlings out there are.

Wenatchee World Editorial on The Beating Open Gov't Is Taking This Year in Olympia

The Wenatchee World hits the nail on the head.

Cop Photograph Exemption Bill Passes House

HB 1317 passed the House. Here is the press release from the House Democrats.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Editorials and Op-Eds on Various Open-Gov't Bills

'Tis the season for editorials, op-eds, and blog pieces on the various open-government bills under consideration by the Legislature. Here they are:

Federal Open-Gov't Compliance Web Site Not Working Well reports that a White House web site to track compliance with President's Obama directive to federal agencies to be more open is inadequate.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Washington Policy Center Piece on Legislative Transparency

This piece from the Washington Policy Center looks at how the Washington Legislature could be more transparent when it is passing laws.

Sunshine Committee Survives ... in the Senate

This update on the fate of the Sunshine Committee comes from Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center:

"The Sunshine Committee survived the Senate. Yesterday the Senate approved its elimination of boards – the Sunshine Committee wasn’t one of them.

The House version of the bill however (2617) still eliminates the Sunshine Committee."

Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial on Police Photo Bill

This editorial from the Yakima Herald-Republic describes why HB 1317, a bill to allow the withholding of law enforcement officers' photographs, won't do anything to protect people but will reduce accountability.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TNT Editorial on Law Enforcement Officer Photo Bill

The (Tacoma) News-Tribune has this editorial on HB 1317, the bill to withhold law enforcement officers' photos from disclosure.

The title of the editorial is "Bad bill exploits officers' deaths."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snohomish County Has Email Archiving System ... But Isn't Using It

This story from The (Everett) Herald describes how Snohomish County spent $87,000 for an email archiving system to allow it to provide better responses to public records request. But the program was "sidelined last year because the program was deemed a low priority."

A paid-for way to provide better responses to public records. A low priority.

Photos of Police Officers Could Become Secret

The TNT reports that a bill, HB 1317, is going forward to allow law enforcement photos to be withheld from the public.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Office of Open Records Bill Is Dead

The bill to create an option to have an administrative agency decide Public Records Act disputes has died in committee, so reports The (Aberdeen) Daily World.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kitsap Sun Editorial on Plan to Eliminate Sunshine Committee

This Kitsap Sun editorial describes why the Sunshine Committee is worth the small amount of money it costs.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Editorial on Not Cutting Sunshine Committee Funding

The (Longview) Daily News writes this editorial urging the Legislature to not cut funding for the Sunshine Committee.

Peter Callaghan Column on Open Meetings and the Legislature

In 1971, the Legislature exempted itself from the Open Public Meetings Act. Peter Callaghan doesn't like that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How a Canadian Open Gov't Law Slowly Died

This article describes how British Columbia's version of the Public Records Act started out strong but slowly died. Amendments restricting access. Increasing fees. Tolerance for delays. Sounds familiar.

Thanks to Michael for sending this story to us.

TNT Editorial on Elder Abuse and Public Records

This editorial from The (Tacoma) News-Tribune describes how access to public records allowed the public to learn of abuse of the elderly in adult family homes.

This blog piece by the TNT's Kim Bradford amplifies the point about how voluminous public records requests ("excessive" requests in the eyes of some government officials) allowed the Seattle Times to report on this important story. Darn, those "excessive" requests just lead to mischief like exposing the abuse of the elderly.