FOI At Work…

From the LA Times:

Obama administration officials knew they did not have all the facts last summer when they rushed to dismiss Shirley Sherrod from the Agriculture Department after learning of a video that painted her as a racist, newly released e-mails show.

The day after Sherrod’s ouster, even as USDA officials acknowledged in internal memos that they had not seen the full video, a White House senior aide e-mailed them to commend the department for moving quickly so the story would not gain “traction.”

As it turned out, Sherrod had been falsely accused, and the actions taken by Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and his senior staff became a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, raising questions about its basic competence and its preoccupation with public perceptions.

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Albuquerque Embraces Data Transparency

Flag of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Image created...
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A nice look at Albuquerque’s new openness initiative

New Mexico ranked 44th among states in the latest transparency rankings by the Sunshine Review. The City of Albuquerque is trying to change that.

The state’s largest city recently unveiled its ABQ View website, which provides a comprehensive look at how the city collects and spends its money.

“ABQ View puts our city government at the forefront of what open government should look like for cities around the country,” Mayor Richard Berry said when he announced the site in August. “I fully expect the public and media to scrutinize and thoroughly examine this data now that it is easily accessible and searchable online,” he said.

In a section titled, “Where Do My Taxes Go,” the site offers breakdowns on city spending in categories such as Budget, City Checkbook, City Contracts and Graded Employee Hourly Rates. Other sections provide details on political contributions to city officials, city employee travel expenses and current audits and investigations. Another section lists the city’s building projects.


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FOI At Work: Don’t Hitchhike in Texas!

Thanks to USA Today for this nice piece of FOI work, localized here by the Austin American-Statesman:

The gist of USA Today’s story:

“During the past four decades, at least 459 people may have died at the hands of highway serial killers, FBI statistics show. Investigators do not know how many people may be responsible for the killings but at least one such case — of murder, attempted murder or unidentified human remains — has been reported in 48 states, along roads as far north as Alaska and as far south as Key West. They believe the killers find their victims and dispose of the bodies along highways, sometimes near quiet roadside rest areas or at bustling truck stops.”

A nice map here that also contains the full USA Today story.

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FOI At Work: 8 Touches of a “Shrek” Glass Enough to Poison a Kid…

Seal of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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The Associated Press with a nice use of FOI:

Federal regulators leaned on McDonald’s to quickly recall 12 million “Shrek”-themed drinking glasses this spring because they concluded that a typical 6-year-old could be exposed to hazardous levels of the metal cadmium by touching one of the glasses just eight times in a day, according to documents obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Of the four collectibles in the series tied to the hit movie “Shrek Forever After,” the glass depicting the character Puss in Boots, with a predominantly orange design, prompted the recall push.

The investigatory file shows how the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission aggressively turned a tip that the glasses contained cadmium in their colored exterior designs into an assessment that the Puss in Boots glasses posed an unacceptable risk to younger kids.



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