FOIA tips and strategies

VCOG was pleased to play host yesterday, May 22, to David Cuillier’s Access Across America tour. Forty citizens, private investigators and print and broadcast journalists signed up to spend their Saturday afternoon hearing Cuillier deliver a lively presentation on the power of public records and strategies for getting them.


The Society of Professional Journalists and the National FOI Coalition are sponsoring Cuillier’s roadshow, which, to date, has hit 17 states, and has something like 15 more to go.


Economic Development: Surprise!

In today’s troubled economic times, it’s not hard to understand the sense of nervous excitement generated by the prospect of a new business locating in the area or of an existing business expanding: jobs, tax revenue, community involvement, stability.


If there were ever any doubt, see the crushing flip side of this when, say, the paper mill in Franklin County closed down earlier this year.


Discussion is good

In an excellent editorial published in late April, the Daily Press criticized the Hampton City Council’s recent changes to the citizen comment period of public meetings.


The Daily Press didn’t fault the city for wanting to improve the meetings’ efficiency, or to eliminate personal attacks or the rehashing of past decisions. The newspaper’s complaint instead was this: “governing bodies that don’t engage the public during the public input parts of their meetings.”


FOIA: it doesn't matter who you are

Prince William County resident Mark Hjelm finally got his day in court April 14. And it was a pretty good day.


The aftermath, well, that’s not so pretty.


Hjelm has been locked in battle with the Prince William County School system for the past few years over Hjelm’s FOIA request to view visitor log data from the district’s Raptor visitor-identification system.


FOIA: political weapon, citizen tool

FOIA isn't something most people think about day in and day out. I remember the Virginia FOIA Council's Maria Everett once saying something to the effect of, "No one grows up wanting to be a FOIA geek." True that.

But it is funny to me, as a card-carrying FOIA geek, how FOIA suddenly becomes the best friend of elected officials when they realize it can be used to perhaps gore the other side's ox.

Working the edges

Working the edges By Megan Rhyne


1. Prior to a city council meeting, Councilman A huddles with Councilman B, talking, nodding and gesturing. Councilman B then goes over to Councilman C, again talking earnestly. Councilman B, then goes to Councilman D, then Councilman E, then Councilman F, where similar conversations take place. The meeting starts, and when it comes time for a contentious issue to be discussed, the council surprises everyone by foregoing discussion and immediately voting on the matter.


Sunshine Week article/editorial roundup

  • Watching Richmond politics unfold in person or on the General Assembly’s Web site is complicated, but one man has made getting informed simpler Waldo Jaquith, the Albemarle County resident behind the 3-year-old legislative tracking Web site Richmond Sunlight (, spends his nights and weekends keeping up the aggregation site and giving people a place to discuss bills. (NOTE: Jaquith is a VCOG board of dire

Legislators' voting records

UPDATE: The bill was effectively defeated in committee this morning. Lawmakers voted to "continue" the bill until 2011. Sens. Houck and Quayle voted against the motion. HB 778 is up for consideration by the Senate Rules Committee on Friday, March 4, at 9 a.m.

On the General Assembly's Web site, you can currently find out which legislators voted for or against a particular bill. Unfortunately, there's no manageable way to find out how one particular legislator voted on any number of bills.

Threat Assessment Team bills -- campus confusion

Following the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, the Virginia General Assembly mandated that public universities set up Threat Assessment Teams (TATs) to identify and evaluate students, staff or faculty who might pose a threat to the campus communities.

The teams are made up of representatives from student affairs, law enforcement, human resources, counseling services, residence life and others as may be needed.


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