12/5/2009: The OPB show “Think Out Loud” is doing a show Monday on the subject of access to public records. This is about AG Kroger’s new “Government Transparency” Initiative. Among other important reforms Kroger has appointed DOJ lawyer Michael Kron as “Government Transparency Counsel”. Kron’s job responsibilities include ensuring that UO Counsel Melinda Grier obeys the public records law. He will be a busy guy. The show will feature a discussion with Attorney General John Kroger and a UO Professor with considerable experience extracting public records from UO, and I am pretty sure it airs at 9 AM, or at least that’s when they told me to be in the studio.
12/2/2009: Oregonian, RG, Jack Bog. This is – potentially – a very significant step towards the reform of Oregon’s public records process, and a nightmare for UO General Counsel Melinda Grier and her efforts to limit access to UO’s public records. From the ODOJ press release:
Attorney General John Kroger today announced a broad plan to improve government transparency in Oregon. “A democracy cannot properly function without strong open government laws,” said Attorney General Kroger. “We’ve implemented some immediate reforms that will improve transparency in state government. But I’m also committed to far greater changes.” Immediate changes include: Putting the 2008 Attorney General’s Manual on Public Records and Public Meetings online. Until now, the manual has been exclusively available in a hard copy at a cost of $25. Free online access will significantly increase its usefulness. … Attorney General Kroger also has created the Government Transparency Counsel, a new position in the Department of Justice designed to ensure that state government properly complies with state transparency laws.
The online PR manual appears to be the direct consequence of pressure from a UO Professor who “illegally” posted the manual online, and from Carl Malamud at Public Resource. Kroger has abandoned his efforts to claim copyright to this manual. The new “Government Transparency Counsel” (Michael Kron) has a great title and we hope will have the authority to overrule Melinda Grier’s efforts to keep public records from the public. We certainly intend to find out!
11/11/2009: CJ Ciaramella has an article in the ODE on a motion in the UO Senate that would set up a process for a faculty committee to review public records requests, if the UO General Counsel’s office delays or otherwise obstructs them. There is more in Peter Gilkey’s extremely well organized and transparent UO Senate pages.
Click here for a link to Carl Malmud‘s 10/23/2009 talk on Open Government – courtesy of the UO Libraries. Or here for his 10/22/2009 talk at Lewis and Clark Law School. (UO’s video is higher quality, and open source.) This guy gives a great talk!
10/23/2009: Latest from Melinda Grier and Doug Park on the ICC rate. They wrote last week, telling us they would show us the documents explaining why the rate was cut – costing UO research efforts $2 million per year – but only if we paid them $173.11. So we sent them a public records request for the documents justifying this charge. Now they want us to pay for the documents that justify charging faculty to see why the research budget has been cut:
Dear Professor X:
The University of Oregon received your public records request for a copy of any documents explaining the estimate of $173.11 provided to you October 8, 2009. The University is now providing an estimate.
The University estimates the actual cost of providing the documents responsive to your request to be $2.70. Upon receipt of a check made payable to the University of Oregon in the amount of $2.70, the University will proceed to locate, copy, and provide the records you have requested that are not exempt from disclosure. Your check may be sent to the attention of the General Counsel’s office at 1226 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1226.
I’d like to think that Rich Linton and Richard Lariviere wouldn’t treat a reasonable faculty question with this sort of contempt. But if that’s true, why they are letting Melinda Grier and Doug Park speak for them like this?
Should America’s Operating System Be Open Source?
Carl Malamud, President and Founder of Public.Resource.Org
Friday, October 23 at 11Am, Studio A, Knight Libraries
(Enter through STEM door on the RHS of the library).
Who owns the law? A thicket of copyright restrictions has arisen around the primary legal materials of the United States. Statutes, regulations, hearings, Attorney General Opinions, building codes, and the other materials that make up the raw materials of democracy all face restrictions. In this talk, Carl Malamud will look at the question of who owns the law, tracing the issues back to early Supreme Court decisions, looking at how the law of the law has been applied in the modern era, and will pay particular attention to a set of issues regarding ownership of the law in Oregon.
Carl Malamud is the President and Founder of Public.Resource.Org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been instrumental in placing over 90 million pages of primary legal materials on the Internet. They were in the lead in the effort last year to convince the Oregon Legislative Committee to waive copyright on the Oregon Revised Statutes, and have been particularly at the federal level, conducting audits of PACER, helping the Government Printing Office publish the Federal Register in XML, and convincing C-SPAN to waive restrictions on use on their footage of government proceedings. Malamud was previously Chief Technology Officer at the Center for American Progress, and prior to that created the Internet Multicasting Service – which ran the first radio station on the Internet, and put the SEC and U.S. Patent Office on the Internet.
9/19/2009: From openuporegon.com:
Carl Malamud has now sent Oregon Attorney General Kroger this letter, stating that he has posted the Oregon Public Records manual online for free access. He also tells Kroger he will soon do the same for several of the other law manuals that the DOJ trys to sell, including the Administrative Law Manual, Public Contracts Manual, and Core Mediation Training Manual. Malamud’s letter to Kroger says:
… I’m sure you will agree that “the law, which, binding every citizen, is free for publication to all, whether it is a declaration of unwritten law, or an interpretation of a constitution or statute.” Banks v. Manchester, 128 U.S. 244, 253 (1888).
Malamud’s work is described in this NY Times story. His efforts to “make public law public” are funded by the Omidyar Foundation (ebay) and endorsed by Larry Lessig – one of Kroger’s old law professors at Harvard. These are serious people – if they weren’t, could they afford to boast that they are endorsed by the “Great Seal“?
9/17/2009: According to this post at openuporegon.com, and this and this, a UO Professor is in trouble with Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, for illegally posting a copyrighted version of the “Oregon Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual.” Now slashdot.org, a hotbed of open source information and activism, has put up a post. Last I looked there were 200 comments, and multiple mirrors of the illegal manual. When the open source guys decide your information should be public, it will be public.
9/2/2009: Regular readers of UO Matters know that we spend a lot of time and money trying to pry public records from the cold grasping claws of UO General Counsel Melinda Grier and her Associate Counsel Doug Park. They resist, we appeal to Oregon Attorney General John Kroger. Sometimes he tells them to fork over the records before he has to make a formal ruling, sometimes he rules against us, sometimes we pay Doug a couple hundred bucks – a pittance, given our enormous Google ad revenue – and he sends a few pages of printout.
Once (so far) we had to make a federal FOIA for some UO records. The agency denied, we appealed, and so on. Then today, out of the blue, one of the UO Matters staff gets a phone call from a lawyer at the USDOJ Office of Information and something or another. A lady with an elegant southern accent, which really takes us back.
Lawyer: “We have reviewed your appeal, and have remanded your request to the relevant agency.”
UO Matters: “Shit! uh wait, what does remanded mean?”
Lawyer: “Sir, we’ve told them to send you the documents.”
UO Matters, “Sweet! uh wait, how much is this going to cost me?”
Lawyer: “If they try to charge you, or if there are unjustified redactions, call me.”
UO Matters: “I’ve been trying to get these for a year – what happened? Is this some Obama thing?”
Lawyer: “Yes. President Obama directed Attorney General Holder to change the way we interpret FOIA law. During our review, your appeal came up.”
I liked the way she said President Obama. You can read Holder’s memo here. It’s pretty impressive stuff. Of course, we still haven’t seen the documents.
Lawyer: “A few weeks. No, let’s set a deadline: You will have them by Sept 22.”
Now if we can only get Oregon’s Attorney General John Kroger to write that same memo to Melinda Grier!
7/9/2009: The Commentator and the Emerald are writing about Pres Lariviere’s blog (which is actually run by UO staffer Tim Beltran). It’s a little too slick for our taste Tim – but maybe we’re just jealous of that fine Borsalino. Still wouldn’t hurt to post some documents – feel free to borrow any of our pdf’s – here’s a good one. Before long people are going to want to see content – and we’re not talking video. Hey – we linked to you, netiquette now requires you to link back to UO Matters.
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger may – eventually – make good on his campaign promises to improve enforcement of public records law. UO has been notoriously bad at providing public access. One of the reasons we started this blog was to make the records Melinda Grier tried to hide public.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Attorney General John Kroger says he’ll review Oregon’s open government laws to see whether they’re being applied correctly and whether he should recommend changes to the Legislature. Kroger says Oregonians tell him they value transparency in government, but he hears from journalists that it’s gotten more difficult to get public records. Oregon open government laws date to 1973. Critics say they’ve been weakened by exceptions the Legislature has approved, narrow interpretations from state lawyers, agency foot-dragging, and high fees charged to prepare data for release. Kroger met Tuesday with journalists in Portland. He says the review will be lengthy and include a look at laws in other states.
Associated Press – July 7, 2009 4:15 PM ET
Also see this Editorial. Meanwhile, the UO Senate is ahead of the curve, having passed Nathan Tublitz’s transparency motion, calling on UO to start providing open access to accounting documents.