Wow! I wish Obama had put Raum in charge of transparency…

Rahm Emanuel, Pointing, With Chicago Flag in B...

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Raum Emanuel, in three months as Chicago mayor, has done more to open City Hall to sunlight than any mayor in the country….from the Sun-Times:

Information on more than 90,000 city contracts dating back to 1993 will be available and easy to download on the Internet, thanks to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s latest move to shine the light on City Hall.

In nearly three months in office, Emanuel has posted an unprecedented amount of information on the Internet in the name of government “transparency.”

The mayor’s office has literally released 170 “datasets” — everything from the names and salaries of city employees to information on lobbyists, crime, abandoned buildings and the list of contractors barred from doing business with the city.

 

 

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You Give FOI A Baaaaad Name….

Here’s a riveting story on an outfit that uses public records to demonstrate how exposed you are, then charges you to remove the information….what a racket!

Philip Cabibi, a 31-year-old applications administrator in Utah, sat at his computer one recent Sunday evening and performed one of the compulsive rituals of the Internet Age: the ego search. He typed his name into Google to take a quick survey of how the internet sees him, like a glance in the mirror.

There were two LinkedIn hits, three White Pages listings, a post he made last year to a Meetup forum for Italian-Americans in the Salt Lake City area. Then, coming in 10th place — barely crawling onto the first page of search results — was a disturbing item.

“Philip Cabibi Mugshot,” read the title. The description was “Mug shot for Philip Cabibi booked into the Pinellas County jail.”

When he clicked through, Cabibi was greeted with his mug shot and booking information from his 2007 drunk-driving arrest in Florida. It’s an incident in Cabibi’s life that he isn’t proud of, and one that he didn’t expect to find prominently listed in his search results four years later, for all the world to see.

The website was florida.arrests.org, a privately run enterprise that siphons booking photos out of county-sheriff databases throughout the Sunshine State, and posts them where Google’s web crawlers can see them for the first time. Desperate to get off the site, Cabibi quickly found an apparent ally: RemoveSlander.com. “You are not a criminal,” the website said reassuringly. “End this humiliating ordeal … Bail out of Google. We can delete the mug-shot photo.”

Cabibi paid RemoveSlander $399 by credit card, and within a day, the site had come through. His mug shot was gone from florida.arrests.org, and his Google results were clean.

Nationwide county-by-county sin rankings

How much fun is this?

Hands Off the Smartphones, During the Public Meeting

Looking for a Facebook status update or email during the next big vote by the Royal Oak City Commission or Sterling Heights City Council? Don’t.

A handful of communities in southeastern Michigan are asking local lawmakers to keep their hands off their smartphones or iPads at council meetings, banning them from communicating electronically with each other or the public while government business is being conducted. That means emailing, blogging, texting or any other form of electronic communication is off limits.

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

“It’s about maintaining the integrity of this council and future councils,” said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. They call the bans “short-sighted.”

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20110706/METRO/107060351/Councils-ban-text–email-by-lawmakers-at-meetings#ixzz1RLUEC4CJ

Oregon Ducks Say No Text Messages in Response to FOI Request…

mobile phone text message

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In documents released by the University of Oregon today to OregonLive.com in response to media requests for information about the Ducks’ football recruiting, one notable item was missing: the text in 934 text messages.

Oregon’s Public Records Law, written in 1961, did not foresee a day when people would use mobile phones to conduct university business, let alone without uttering a word. So although the letter of the law requires UO and all other public agencies to keep records of all correspondence pertaining to their work, many do not save text messages.

Confusion reigns about whether and how to archive messages sent via text message, on Twitter and through Facebook, state archivist Mary Beth Herkert said. As a result, archivists advocated a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would broaden the definition of a public record and require public agencies to adopt written policies for retaining such records.

As revealed in media reports in March, in spring 2010, Oregon paid Houston-based recruiting consultant Willie Lyles $25,000 for a package of information and video highlights of players. The payment arrived a few weeks after highly-sought running back Lache Seastrunk signed with Oregon, raising the question of whether Lyles had steered Seastrunk or other players from Texas to the Ducks.

The Oregonian, among other media outlets, requested access to text messages between Oregon coaches coach Chip Kelly and running backs coach Gary Campbell, Lyles and his representatives from 2007 to March 4, 2011. But Oregon has no formal policy regarding the archiving of text messages, UO spokesman Phil Weiler said.

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When Lucy says she hasn’t seen anything this idiotic in a long time…that’s saying a lot!

A small, much used Xerox photocopier in the li...

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From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a shameless attempt to wring fees from data:

Journalists have elbowed into Cuyahoga County’s dispute over the cost of CDs loaded with deeds and mortgages, arguing that the public should have the databases at cost.

The county wants to charge more than $200,000 for CDs of property records, based on a state law that mandates a $2-per-page fee to photocopy or fax documents. Officials have spent nearly $25,000 in tax dollars on lawyers to defend that position.

Fine, two journalism organizations say. But the CDs aren’t paper; and they’re not photocopies.

“This case is not terribly complicated,” writes the Ohio Newspaper Association. “The Cuyahoga County Recorder is not making a photocopy of any record. And it cannot, therefore, charge a fee that would make a valuable database inaccessible to the public.”

The association joined the Arlington, Va.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Ohio Land Title Association in filing briefs this week in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The journalism organizations are getting involved now, they say, because of the potentialramifications. If the court decides the county can charge $2 per page on CDs, journalists would not be able to afford databases that make analysis and investigative journalism possible.

“I have not seen anything this idiotic in a really long time,” Reporters Committee attorney Lucy Dalglish said in a phone interview. “You really have to work hard to interpret a statute that badly.”

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OK, I still think the Palin e-mail deal was a collossal waste of journalistic firepower, but…

This is kinda cool.

And the Democracy Gently Weeps: Jon Stewart on Palin E-Mails…

Well played, Mr. Stewart…well played.

Thanks to mindless Palin e-mail feeding frenzy, at least…

People are suddenly paying attention to FOI….and finding that, shock of shock, they are withholding all the good stuff.

One Good Thing from the Palin EMail Crapola…

From Propublica:

Initial estimate of the cost to produce the e-mails: $15 million

ACTUAL COST: $725 per media org

cd