Transparency News 12/5/17

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

State and Local Stories

The Richmond School Board on Monday approved a $224.8 million, five-year facilities plan to build long-awaited new schools across the city. The approval came after a recommendation from the school system’s interim superintendent, Tommy Kranz, who was asked at a special meeting last week to present the administration’s opinion. The five new schools and two renovations approved by the board are part of both of the two plans Kranz had previously presented to the board. The 5-3 vote was taken without receiving public comments on the two plans, which were not made publicly available outside of a breakdown in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday. The last time the board weighed a facilities plan — during the 2014-15 school year — it held 18 public meetings.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police officers was captured by the in-car video camera of a Fairfax County officer who had joined a pursuit of Ghaisar's Jeep on Nov. 17, and Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said Monday that he wants that video made public as soon as the FBI is done interviewing officers in the case. The FBI took over the investigation from the Park Police three days after the killing of Ghaisar, who graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. But Ghaisar's family doesn't want to wait any longer to see the video, in which two Park Police officers walked over to Ghaisar's Jeep in the Fort Hunt area of Alexandria and at least one of them opened fire for reasons still unknown. The family said Monday that it wants to see the video now, though not necessarily release it to the public.
Richmond Times-Dispatch


A teenager was killed and an off-duty Richmond police officer was injured when the two exchanged gunfire at a Chesterfield mall. The Chesterfield Police Department initially would not identify the teenager, citing a new state law. The law requires the police to obtain the consent of the next of kin before they can release the identity of a juvenile victim of crime. Del. Jackson Miller sponsored the legislation. He tells The Times-Dispatch, “the intent of that was when the juvenile is a victim, not a suspect.” Yet he understands how the law could be read to cover the shooting at the Chestertowne Shopping Center, because it includes situations in which “the victim’s death results from any crime.” The point here is not that the department was right or wrong to withhold the information. It is simply that, once again, the abstract intent of a piece of legislation and the concrete use of the law by someone else diverged. That divergence is compounded by the way the General Assembly conducts its business. Each session, lawmakers race through piles and piles of bills — more than 3,000 in some years.
Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Trump administration recently announced its plan to accelerate the processing of a 13,000 records-request backlog that has piled up over the past decade at the U.S. State Department. This is a good start, but the president has an even greater opportunity to show his administration’s commitment to transparency: finalizing the “Release to One, Release to all” rule for the Freedom of Information Act. The Freedom of Information Act, or “FOIA,” signed into law a half century ago, permits Americans to petition any federal agency for records. The purpose of the FOIA was to help hold those agencies accountable by allowing the public to know what their government was up to. The Release to One, Release to All policy, initially proposed under the Obama administration, would expand access to information by making records produced in response to individual FOIA requests publicly available to everyone through agency websites.
Tyler Arnold, The Hill