Megan Rhyne's blog

Archiving a Governor

 

What did the Kaine administration know about the shootings at Virginia Tech five years ago and when?

Well, thanks to the Library of Virginia, we are starting to know the answer to that question, though it will be months before we have a bigger picture and we may never know all the answers.

Here's what's going on.

Consultant's report runaround

When a local government is faced with an issue -- how to repurpose an old building, whether to implement block scheduling in the high schools, how satisfied the workforce is, where to locate a new government building -- they often hire an outside consultant. The consultant comes in, asks a lot of questions, observes what is and isn't going on, and prepares a report.

What happens next isn't always so cut and dried.

When I think about this town or that

I'm writing this on the Amtrak train as winds its way from Williamsburg to D.C. It's a Spring Break trip to the Big City with my 5-year-old and a family we know from his school.

The newness of the train wore off after the first hour, and now he and the three other kids are well ensconced in Angry Birds and other shiny iPad apps.

Let's Talk About Fees

Let’s talk about fees. Fees for filling FOIA requests. Fair fees for filling FOIA requests.

Am I sounding too Dr. Seuss-like? Well, sometimes the fees I see some state and local agencies charge to fill requests for public records do resemble some sort of fantastical, tongue-twisting scenario only the late children’s fabulist could concoct.

Here’s the latest one to grab my attention. A requester will be billed:

Smart enough for government records

Did you know you’re not smart enough to read government information?

You don’t understand legal terminology. You don’t understand context. You can’t distinguish between facts and distortions, not to mention your lack of ability to pick up on self-serving statements.

So, rather than make you feel bad about yourself, some in government would like to help you out. If the information isn’t easily available to you, you’ll never know what you’re missing.

Another stealth workgroup? Really?

It seems like only yesterday I was writing about a workgroup the governor designed to advise a public body that would operate outside the Freedom of Information Act.

Ah yes. Those were the days.

I mean, they're still the days.

Not so bad up close

An article published over the weekend in Virginia Statehouse News and reprinted by the Daily Press, breathlessly warns us that under a bill awaiting the governor’s signature, “Email records obtained under FOIA will no longer feature information identifying people who talk with local lawmaker

GPS tracking in the dark

We need your help!

A month into the General Assembly session and after crossover, two identical bills were introduced to address the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Jones, which said that it is a "search" under the 4th Amendment if the police put a GPS device on someone's vehicle.

A conversation about public notices

They’re gray. They’re not very attractive. They’re sometimes confusing. But they are essential to the public’s ability to know what its government is doing…and when.

 

They are public notices, also called legal notices, and they are in your local newspaper for a reason: to keep you informed.

 

Public notices = Public access

There are some local government actions that the legislature has said are important enough that they must have a special hearing. Often a public comment period must be included, which is not the case for ordinary public meetings.

For decades, the legislature has required that notice of these special hearings (called "public notices") be published in the local newspaper because that has been the best way to reach the most people, and the biggest cross-section of any given community.

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