by Adam Andrzejewski
CEO, For The Good of Illinois
March 14, 2011
“Government created the hurdle of the request and now they want to regulate the request. In the Internet age, the standard on public information should be proactive posting.” We advocate full disclosure.
Fundamental to holding our government accountable, citizens simply need access to relevant information. This is not a new concept. In our founding documents, Article I Section 9 of the US Constitution states, that a statement of receipts and expenditures of public money shall “be published from time to time.”
Yet, a certain number of local mayors, elected county and state officials, and government administrators are tired of responding to citizen questions. Last week, State Senator Edward Maloney sponsored SB1645. This legislation regulates the number of requests citizens could file in obtaining public information under the freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Maloney wants to chill your access to public information.
The problem is not the inquisitive citizen filing the request. The problem is government hiding public information behind an artificially created wall and mandating a bureaucratic paperwork hurdle for citizens to gain access to that information. Now Sen. Maloney wants to force limits by additional regulation on the already regulated system. This is typical of government.
The purpose of the existing paperwork request is so that Government can identify the watchdogs. Why is that important? Because, watchdogs are potential political opponents. Watchdogs can forestall bloated contracts to insiders, stop egregious tax hikes, highlight extreme payroll, pensions, and perks. Watchdogs slow down the “Illinois Gravy Train” that the political class rides to their own prosperity.
These watchdogs are identified and their questions tracked by government bureaucrats. Watchdogs are the “unwashed rabble”. So they need to be slowed with paperwork, waiting periods, and fees.
Maloney’s SB1645 builds on the bureaucracy of the existing system and then arbitrarily limits a citizens “right to know”. If a citizen has the audacity to ask more than fifteen questions per year, your activity is assigned to the fighting words, name calling bucket of… “vexatious”. Local government would then have the option to stop fulfilling any more requests. Good grief.
Obviously, this senate bill is completely unnecessary. Good Government opens its books and proactively posts public information online. Click here to see the “Open Books” of DuPage County. But, most of Illinois government uses an administrative system that shields all of government behind a request and paperwork process.
A simple solution exists: post everything proactively online. This is the standard practiced in Florida. Florida truly is the sunshine state. It’s a bumper sticker and also great policy.
As the top lawyer enforcement office and the arbiter of the Freedom of Information Act in Illinois, where is Attorney General Lisa Madigan on this issue?
So far she is silent. I think that’s vexatious.