Sunshine Week Event featuring Jane Kirtley

Posted by: on Mar 2, 2010 | No Comments

Jane Kirtley
Freedom of Information: Your Key to Open Government

Monday, March 15, 2010
12:00 Noon

James J. Hill Reference Library
80 West 4th Street, St. Paul

Event flyer

Sunshine Week Toolkit

Sunshine Week 2010 Webcast – Building Transparency

Posted by: on Feb 14, 2010 | No Comments

Friday, March 19, 2010

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. CST

Participants in past Sunshine Week webcasts have expressed a preference for viewing/participating from their own office rather than gathering for a group view.

No registration required.

The link will be available 24 hrs. prior to the event at the SW event page.
http://www.openthegovernment.org/article/articleview/420/
Panelists include Norm Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform; and Miriam Nisbet, Director of the Office of Government Information.

Sunshine Week & Finnegan Award in the News

Posted by: on Mar 25, 2009 | No Comments

Now that the week is over it’s fun to take a look at the coverage we got – and are getting:

Newspapers provide broadest access to government records – Jim Pumarlo wrote a nice article for the Minnesota Newspaper Association

Jim Neumeister was interviewed on Midday (Minnesota Public Radio)

Rich Neumeister, recipient of the 2009 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award, will be interviewed on this week’s Almanac: At the Capitol, with Mary Lahammer. Air times are Wednesday, March 25 at 10:00 p.m. and Thursday, March 26, at 4:00 a.m. on Channel 2. Channel 17 will air the program on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday at 2:00 a.m, 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m.

Sunshine Week Recap

Posted by: on Mar 23, 2009 | No Comments

Sunshine Week generated a number of events and lively exchanges, including some local disagreement about a national survey of state government information available online. That survey engendered a March 15 Star Tribune article by Liz Riggs of AP headlined “Survey:65 percent of Minnesota government records online.”

Not so fast, responds Charlie Quimby on the Growth & Justice blog. Quimby notes that the headline is misleading “since the sponsors certainly did not measure all types of records, and 100 percent of all records would hardly be a desirable goal.”

It’s an interesting exchange, emphasizing that, though accessible information is only one aspect of “developing a culture of fiscal discipline and accountability”, it’s an aspects worthy of public attention.

The Top Ten Most Wanted Government Documents

Posted by: on Mar 22, 2009 | No Comments

The Center for Democracy and Technology recently released a report on the most wanted federal documents. Here’s a list of the Top Ten Most Wanted Government Documents from the report.

  1. Public Access to All Congressional Research Service Reports
  2. Information About the Use of TARP and Bailout Funds
  3. Open and Accessible Federal Court Documents Through the PACER System
  4. Current Contractor Projects
  5. Court Settlements Involving Federal Agencies
  6. Access to Comprehensive Information About Legislation and Congressional
    Actions via THOMAS or Public Access to Legislative Information Service
  7. Online Access to Electronic Campaign Disclosures
  8. Daily Schedules of the President and Cabinet Officials
  9. Personal Financial Disclosures from Policymakers Across Government
  10. State Medicaid Plans and Waivers

Report: Dim Sunshine Laws in Five Midwest States

Posted by: on Mar 18, 2009 | No Comments

wanted to let you know about the report on open government laws that the Citizen Advocacy Center, a policy research partner of the Midwest Democracy Network, launched today in celebration of Sunshine Week. I thought you might find it of interest this week!

Relevant links:
http://www.citizenadvocacycenter.org/OGP.html
http://midwestdemocracynetwork.org/index.php/projects/article/midwest_open_government_project_2009/
http://midwestdemocracynetwork.org/index.php/news/article/midwest_open_government_project_launches_resonates/

PRNewswire Release:
http://news.prnewswire.com/DisplayReleaseContent.aspx?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/03-18-2009/0004990576&EDATE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 18, 2009
Contact: Terry Pastika, Citizen Advocacy Center, 630-833-4080
Charlie Boesel, Joyce Foundation, 312-795-3816
Emily Blum, Valerie Denney Communications, 312-408-2580 ext. 13

New study finds five Midwestern states have dim sunshine laws
CHICAGO, March 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — While every state in the nation has laws that require public access to government records and meetings, in five Midwestern states that were recently analyzed, documents are often kept secret and doors can remain tightly closed.
According to a study released Wednesday by the Citizen Advocacy Center (Center) in celebration of Sunshine Week (March 15-21), open government laws in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota have systemic barriers that chill public participation and access to government, which weakens our democratic system designed to be by, for and of the people.
The Center analyzed each state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts and found striking similarities between all states, including:

  • Open government laws are sporadically enforced, which means public bodies are more likely to be unresponsive to records requests and employ exemptions to keep meetings closed.
  • No state surveyed has a government office with statutory authority specifically created to oversee and enforce sunshine laws.
  • State employees are not adequately trained to carry out open government policies and may be unintentionally violating the laws.
  • Citizens may be able to attend meetings, but there are very few opportunities to participate.

“For our democracy to thrive and grow, we must have open government laws that are both strong and effective,” said Terry Pastika, Executive Director and Community Lawyer for the Citizen Advocacy Center. “Without forceful sunshine laws, the public can not fully participate in the democratic process, knowledgably discuss issues of public concern, make informed judgments about the actions of elected officials, or monitor government to make sure it’s acting in their interest.”

For the study, the Center reviewed each state’s laws as well as more than 1,000 legal cases, attorney general opinions, and professional publications to produce a comprehensive report on each state’s strengths and weaknesses. The Center also provided specific reform recommendations that good government advocates can use to advance changes within each state. Reforms range from changing how fees should be levied to implementing training programs for public officials.

The study, conducted by the Center and funded by The Joyce Foundation, is distributed by the Midwest Democracy Network, an alliance of political reform advocates who are working to strengthen democracy and build the capacity of the public to participate and affect government decision-making.

To view the full report online, visit www.citizenadvocacycenter.org or www.midwestdemocracynetwork.org.

FOI Update from MPR

Posted by: on Mar 18, 2009 | No Comments

Citizen lobbyist, Rich Neumeister , is awarded the 2009 John R. Finnegan award for open government. He is also interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio with Minneapolis Attorney and First Amendment specialist, Mark Anfinson.

You can listen to or read the program on the MRP web site.

Freedom of Information Award Recognizes Bridge Collapse Coverage, Pro se Legal Services

Posted by: on Mar 6, 2008 | No Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 5, 2008

Freedom of Information Award Recognizes Bridge Collapse Coverage, Pro se Legal Services

Silha Center’s Jane Kirtley Envisions “The Light at the End of the Tunnel”

The people’s right to know assumes a vast network of agencies and individuals committed to affirmation of that right. Recipients of the 2008 John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award reflect the many facets of information access. The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MnCOGI) will present this year’s awards as a highlight of Freedom of Information and the kickoff of Sunshine Week 2008.

By any measure, the collapse of the 35W Bridge is the story of 2007 – covered by every news medium from every journalistic angle. Recipients of the FOI Award include several investigative journalists including Associated Press staffers Martiga Lohn and Brian Bakst and Star Tribune reporters Dan Browning, Kevin Diaz, Patrick Doyle, Mike Kaszuba and Paul McEnroe. All of these journalists have enhanced public understanding of the tragedy through their explicit use of the Freedom of Information Act and the Minnesota Data Practices Act to gain access to public information.

The Coalition will also confer two Honorable Mention Awards. An Honorable Mention Award will be given to Susan Albright, former Editorial Page Editor at the Star Tribune. Albright, now with MinnPost, is recognized for her articulate appreciation of the dependence of a free press on access to government information and for her consistent editorial support of the principles of open government.

Recipients of the second Honorable Mention Award are Susan Ledray and Katrina Zabinski, coordinators of the innovative “Self Help Center” (SHC) in Minnesota’s Fourth Judicial District. As designers of the SHC Ledray and Zabinski explicitly used government information to both define and meet the needs of a targeted population. The nomination document notes that the SHC serves “thousands of pro se litigants in Minnesota to move through court more efficiently, more effectively and more informed.” In the words of Judge Edward Lynch, the SHC “provides information, resources and assistance to thousands of litigants representing themselves in court proceedings.” The Self Help Center is now available in all Minnesota counties.

Awards will be presented at Freedom of Information Day ceremonies on Friday, March 14, Noon-1:00 at the Minneapolis Central Library.
Keynote speaker for the event is Jane Kirtley, Director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota. Kirtley is an internationally-known expert and lecturer on issues of media law and freedom of information. Prior to joining the U of M School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1999, Kirtley was the Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and a columnist for American Journalism Review. Her presentation is entitled “The Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Outlook for FOI.”
John R. Finnegan, Sr., for whom the award is named, is a Minnesota journalist and renowned defender of the First Amendment and the role of informed citizens in a democracy.

The Minnesota Coalition on Government Information is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation representing individuals and organizations committed to open access to public information in print, electronic and digital formats. The Coalition involves media representatives, attorneys, librarians, computer professionals, state and local government officials, educators and others who care about transparency in government, information access and the role of an informed citizenry in a democracy.

# # #

Contact: Mary Treacy
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
mncogi@gmail.com
http://www.mncogi.org

Sunshine Week in DC

Posted by: on Feb 21, 2008 | No Comments

If you’re going to be in DC during Sunshine Week – March 16-22Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley will address Freedom of Information and other open government issues during a Sunshine Week dinner event March 18 at The National Press Club. The dinner is being jointly presented by Sunshine Week and the Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library.

The speech will update Curley’s 2004 Hays-Enterprise Lecture which many view as a defining moment in moving forward the myriad efforts ongoing now to preserve and protect access to information. “The government is pushing hard for secrecy,” he said in the Hays speech. “We must push back equally hard for openness.” Curley’s 2008 speech will look ahead to priorities in the new administration.

GOVERNMENT SECRECY: CENSORING YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW

Posted by: on Jan 18, 2008 | No Comments

Celebrate Sunshine Week 2008
Participate in the national satellite/webcast

Local site sponsored by the
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
11:45 – 2:00 p.m.

Minneapolis Telecommunications Network
125 Main Street SE in St. Anthony Main
Just across the river from downtown Minneapolis

Free and open

Come early and pick up lunch at the Aster Cafe, Tuggs or another local eatery.
Enjoy lunch during the webcast. Stay for brief discussion of the issues and a quick tour of the MTN studios

Questions: mncogi@gmail.com