Sunlight Weekly Round-up: FOI in Connecticut could lose credibility in new merger

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Zubedah Nanfuka

May 27, 2011, 5:44:54 PM5/27/11
Hi folks,
As you get ready for the long weekend, take a look at this round-up of open government issues. I am reading the Art of Access: Strategies for acquiring public records by David Cuillier and Charles N. Davis, and I find it very appropriate with what is going on in open government at the state and local level. Has any one read it? What were your thoughts? I traced a #FOIA chat by the Sunshine Review with Davis, the archived link is below. For a more comprehensive selection of open gov blogs here is Sunlight Foundation's link:

Freedom of information in Connecticut is in trouble -- at least, according to Mitchell W. Pearlman, the retired 30-year Freedom of Information (FOI) Director for the state.In a new proposed bill that Pearlman had a chance to see, but has not yet been disclosed to the public, FOI will be merged into a super agency with other transparency-focused agencies (including the Office of State Ethics and State Elections Enforcement Commission) to become the Office of  Government Accountability. One of the super agency’s proposed duties would be to create efficiencies by merging similar agencies while seemingly saving the tax payer money. To show how this new proposal will not be saving taxpayers money, but in fact increasing costs, Pearlman breaks it down with the possible outcomes. Jon Lender is putting it all in perspective on Capitol Watch.

Wes Hare, City manager of Albany, Oregon is seeking “transparency at any cost.” While taking pride in awards for Albany’s open government movement, Hare questions the State Attorney General, John Kroger’s recent proposal to improve transparency by limiting government charges for retrieving public records because he thinks it’s a “cost burden on taxpayers.” His recommendation? Government should be allowed to maintain some control over public records. See how he makes a case for it on We Share.

A performance based budget bill that will require agencies to set benchmarks and goals and be held accountable for their spending priorities, has been passed in Nevada. The Assembly Bill 248 is part of the state government reform plan to be more transparent, efficient and accountable. While it will give the state’s governor the power to authorize executive agencies to conduct public hearings on the proposed budget, it will also require the posting of performance on the Department of Administration website. Geoffrey Lawrence reveals how this bill is a result of the Nevada Policy Research Institute study, “Better Budgeting for Better Results”. He applauds the Nevada legislature on Write on Nevada.

A new joint committee on transparency and open government will soon be operational in Maryland. Created through HB766 with Delegate Heather Mizeur as the lead sponsor, the Committee will make recommendations on state transparency goals and policies. Nick Judd talked to Delegate Mizeur who believes the committee can also be used as “a way to make more transparent opportunities for contracting in the state.” Judd asserts that it still remains to be seen where the money to fund this committee will come from, as he details other improvements made by Gov. O’Malley, including his hiring of a state Chief Innovation Officer. He asks whether Maryland is becoming The Open Government State on techPresident.

The city of Georgetown in South Carolina may have started off on a good note by posting their weekly spending online, but Dan Golden writes that this is no longer so. He writes that the essence of accountability is understanding  that the purpose of publishing spending documents is not just for the taxpayers’ benefit, but for government officials to know that this information is available for the public. Could City Councilman Paige Sawyer have feigned ignorance about the city’s spending information not being made public? Details on The Opinion Blog.
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