Saturday, November 3, 2007

Paper Chases, Pennsylvania Style

Here are some interesting twists involving proposed changes in Pennsylvania's open records law.

Open records law: Maimed but breathing

The Morning Call, Editorial

"For instance, e-mails would be excluded. As open-records advocate Timothy Potts put it, in the 21st century, that's like exempting paper."

Politicians fight against openness

Editorial, The Daily Review
And, in a true revelation of how these politicians view the public, agency officials would be allowed to deny any request they deem “harassing.”

Citizen: “I’d like to see how much of my money you spent on travel last year.”

Public official: “Stop harassing me.”

Public records bill comes under fire
Philadelphia Inquirer
"HARRISBURG - The proposed new open-records law for Pennsylvania declares that any document created by a public or government agency shall be considered an open record.

Unless, of course, it falls under an exempted category. That list runs six pages."

You can read more about the issues at PassOpenRecords.Org and The Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition .

Finally, there was an attempt to keep from public view this vital state secret: the locations where Pennsylvanians can vote in Tuesday's election.

The (real) Associated Press story:

HARRISBURG (AP) (October 26, 2007, 2:31 a.m.)- State officials have decided not to publicize their list of polling places in Pennsylvania, citing concerns that terrorists could disrupt elections in the commonwealth.

...inspired this (satirical) column by Rich Lewis:

More great ideas for protecting us from terrorism
By Rich Lewis, Sentinel Columnist
After discussions with my colleagues over at State, it is clear to me that our long-standing practice of putting the names of cities on highway signs is imprudent in these dangerous times, and so I am ordering all such signs removed immediately. To further thwart potential terrorist activity, we will erect special “Distractor Signage” close to densely populated areas. For example, signs on the outskirts of Philadelphia will say, “PHILADELPHIA 200 MILES OTHER WAY.”

The Sentinel's editorial takes a more serious tone:

Secrecy officials’ default mode
By The Sentinel
"Fortunately, Gov. Ed Rendell on Friday stepped in and reversed the policy. Noting that withholding the information was a violation of the state’s open records law, he also correctly acknowledged that the information is easily obtained from county elections offices — making the Department of State’s move not only outrageous but pointless."

"But it is yet another indication that those running the state operate in a culture of fear and secrecy. Concealing information is second nature to them."


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