The state’s refusal to identify specific schools with COVID-19 cases suggests a pernicious problem: that officials don’t trust parents and students to have easy public access to information that could put schools or administrators in a negative light.
The police killings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor, among others, as well as video footage of police using excessive force in dealing with protesters, have underscored the need for changes in policing, including greater access to disciplinary records.
It is time to break down some of the barriers that prevent the public from getting a full and true picture of how police perform — sometimes laudable, sometimes not — and how government agencies respond to allegations of misconduct.
In March, as Wisconsin enacted Safer at Home, state and local governments scrambled to build new ways to govern from remote locations while still complying with our open meeting laws. Even in the age of COVID-19, we still have the right to watch public bodies in action.
Believe it or not, this has been a relatively quiet time on the open government front. In my role with the WFOIC, I often field calls from reporters and citizens regarding the problems they are experiencing getting access to public meetings and records.
During the hectic legislative session in February, one thing got lost: the public’s ability to participate fully in the process. That’s because the public wasn’t given adequate notice of some public hearings.
As founder of We the Irrelevant, a website that tracks how well (or poorly) the actions of legislators match up with what the public has asked them to do, I have sent multiple open records requests to Wisconsin legislators on a variety of controversial initiatives. Each time, I’ve asked them for related citizen correspondence.
Just shy of two years ago, this column explored the heightened importance of open government when public health is at risk. Multiple examples showed the government was not sharing timely information with the public, or even other branches of government, on issues such as clean drinking water and chronic wasting disease.