October 22, 2014 |
T HE CITY shells out a pretty penny every year to settle lawsuits based on allegations of police misconduct. MuckRock.com, which bills itself as a "collaborative news site" that helps journalists, researchers and citizens analyze and share government documents, posted an online report yesterday that looked at how Philadelphia's annual payouts stack up against those in a handful of other large cities. The findings might not surprise you. The city has shelled out more than $40 million to settle 584 of the 1,223 police-misconduct lawsuits - think wrongful-shooting deaths, excessive force or illegal searches - filed since January 2009, the website reported.
June 27, 2013
Mayor Nutter campaigned on a promise of government transparency, convincing voters that he was the guy with nothing to hide. But in the aftermath of the deadly collapse of a four-story building at 22d and Market Streets, he has denied access to public documents that may help us understand the tragedy and prevent a recurrence. The city, for example, is sitting on Sean Benschop's successful five-page application to do city-financed demolition work. Benschop is the excavator operator who was charged with manslaughter in connection with the June 5 collapse.
May 12, 2013
Some Pennsylvania lawmakers are trying to prohibit the executive director of the state Office of Open Records from speaking publicly about active cases - essentially gagging an office designed to promote open government. A bill being considered in Harrisburg would undermine crucial provisions of the state's open-records law and have a chilling effect on transparency. The attempt to muzzle the office's director, Terry Mutchler, is particularly outrageous and out of line with other agencies.
April 25, 2013 |
HARRISBURG - When the Office of Open Records was created by Pennsylvania's landmark 2008 Right-to-Know Law, there was no precedent for how an independent agency would handle citizen appeals for government documents. There weren't even a logo or office furniture. Now, five years and more than 6,000 cases after the appointment of its first director, the office confronts new challenges: handling nearly double the caseload from when its doors opened in 2009, and dueling with government agencies that keep finding reasons to turn down citizens' requests.
August 8, 2011 |
HARRISBURG - A Northeastern Pennsylvania woman wants to restore her dog's reputation. A man wants to ferret out corruption in his borough south of Pittsburgh. What do they have in common? A recent court case makes it harder for them to look at government records. In June, Debra Krysicki of White Haven, Pa., asked for a state record that would show who had filed a complaint about her 2-year-old boxer, Fritzie. The Department of Agriculture denied her request. When she appealed, the state Office of Open Records dismissed her appeal outright.
August 13, 2010
By Leonard Boasberg I'm a liberal. You got a problem with that? A lot of liberals do. The Republicans have managed so well to demonize the word that many liberals prefer to call themselves progressives. Liberal. Progressive. What's the difference? "When I use a word," said Humpty-Dumpty in rather a scornful tone, "it means exactly what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less. " What is a liberal? We liberals believe in the open mind and the open society. We believe in fair play, civil liberties, and due process of law. We believe in open government, and the constitutional arrangement of three coequal branches of government, and we are highly suspicious of concentrated power in any of them.
August 7, 2010
It's tough to stand out as a stubbornly backward government in South Jersey, what with the Delaware River Port Authority constantly raising the bar. But darned if Gloucester County didn't find a way. The county freeholders have proven themselves so incapable of obeying the state's open-meetings law that they require a babysitter. State Superior Court Judge Francis J. Orlando Jr. recently imposed six months of independent monitoring on the board to make sure it breaks its habit of doing the public's business in private.
August 26, 2009 |
After the nation endured eight years of an administration with a reputation for excessive secrecy, promoting open government must have seemed like a political slam dunk to our new, basketball-loving president. As a candidate and as president, Barack Obama has promised to bring so much openness to the federal government that one might have expected Washington to be as transparent as a fishbowl. But instead of restoring public confidence in government, Obama's rhetoric on transparency seems to have raised unrealistic expectations.
July 28, 2009 |
ALL'S NOT well at Pennsylvania's new Office of Open Records. As its first executive director, that's a difficult truth to face, so I'm asking open-government advocates and other citizens for their help. We're at a crossroads, and it's only fair that citizens have an accurate and honest picture of what's happening with this part of their government. Pennsylvania rewrote its archaic right-to-know law to create an independent office to resolve records disputes. As of Jan. 1, all records of the government were presumed to be open.
March 17, 2009 |
This is National Sunshine Week, dedicated to celebrating the importance of open government and freedom of information. Sadly, though, here in the Philadelphia region, the forecast calls for clouds and closed government. The Inquirer's "Heard in the Hall" feature recently included a stunning headline: "Council members hold private meeting to discuss public process. " It reported that Philadelphia's City Council had met in secret to discuss whether to hold public budget meetings in the city's neighborhoods.