Public Access Counselor and the Attorney General's office

I had an excellent conversation with Mr. Christopher Boggs from the Public Access Bureau of the Attorney General’s office. In short, he gave me the green light to publicly post any and all correspondence with his office, so without further ado:

 

Why am I making a blog post about this? For the record, my interest is about pursuing open and transparent governance. Mr. Boggs related how Illinois and Chicago have had a rash of corruption and heavy-handed tactics exhibited by our elected officials, and thus the recently updated FOIA and OMA laws are an attempt to bring power back to the citizens. I am very much inspired by this, because I have come to believe that we the people have given much of our power away, and I firmly believe that the most healthy thing is for us to take it back. Please note that I am not talking about anarchy; government, when executed within the proper boundaries, is critical and fundamental to society. I get that. But when government is bloated, rotten and corrosive, we need a way to either correct it or replace it. Isn’t that what we told England a few hundred years ago? In some ways, it seems the US has come full circle.

 

So my goal is not meant to make any one person or an entity look bad. Rather, my post is about encouraging others to fight for a healthy balance of power between the people and the decision-makers. Mr. Boggs, and the entire Public Access Bureau, are all about bringing sunshine into our government. Amen to that! I am all for it.

 

Mr. Boggs also lamented that the Bureau is terribly backlogged; I get the impression they are burning the candle at both ends. Tons of FOIA requests are being filed about the Chicago Public School system. I am so glad we are not embroiled in that. 🙂

 

So, I encourage you to join me in working for a balance. My personal journey has led me to push hard for changes in Controlled Choice (aka, Schools of Choice, Kindergarten Lottery, etc) by suggesting policy changes and interacting with board members (individually and as a group). Where is your path leading?

 

To aid in this effort, I have created a repository for FOIA documents. It is still really rough and takes a lot of work to maintain, but I wanted to get something out there with the hopes that it will evolve and because more organic.

 

Open recruitment: all eyes on deck

I was forwarded an email about http://forthegoodofillinois.org/, which has launched a project to put all government spending records at your fingertips via http://www.openthebooks.com/. This sounds like a very ambitious project. The one example they are highlighting is quite interesting in itself.

So I am recruiting people to help me look through the open checkbook of Unit 4 after May 1st (when it goes live). The goal: make sure we are spending money on teaching kids. For many of us, the tax for public education is the largest percentage of our property tax (I think). I am not even going to go into the joke of how our State’s Constitution says the state needs to bear this responsibility. The rules: if you find something interesting, say something about it; we are not here to castrate or demonize any individual, but to look for deficiencies and suggest helpful alternatives.

I do not yet have a good way to organize our findings. I am open to suggestions. In the meantime, just make a comment on this thread. Or volunteer to become a guest author (here, Smile Politely, Halfway Interesting, etc).

 

More to follow.

 

PS – as a fallback plan if the above websites get taken down (politics, *sigh*), we can always file FOIA requests. I know a number of folks have already done this, and it would be oh so handy if we could combine our efforts and consolidate that information. I can help build a database and make it available online.

Open Government Directive

Take a gander our our Nation’s Open Government Directive from 2009.

“The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government.  Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing.  Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society.  Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.”

 

The entire document is a long read (and I have not read it word for word, yet), but lays out the framework and some reasonable action steps.

 

I came across the above while looking for “We the People“.

 

Oh, why am I making a post about government in an education blog? This is more relevant for the Board and the Administration, and how communication happens.