Sunday, October 12, 2014

No. 60 – August 22, 2013 - To FOIA or not to FOIA, that is the Question

by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Do you want to know what the people you hired to work for you are doing? Passed into law in 1966, a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) is the answer. We have a right to know what is being done in your name.

You are the government. Far too many Americans have forgotten the fact, or been mislead by appearances. When our founders said 'government' it was not a select few they had in mind, but the people.

To vote intelligently, you need to know what those you hired are up to. You could not run your business without knowing, and together we cannot govern without full knowledge. Those hired tend to forget who is in charge, FOIAs help remind them while getting us the facts.

How much are we paying them? How are they spending our money? What resolutions and ideas are they writing up which will impact how we live? Knowing allows us time to take action.

Delegating work to a few people, who could focus on the problems, providing stability and thrifty solutions, was the point of setting up the city councils, county governments, state governments, and the federal government. These are not carved in stone. We are not locked in to anything and tools such as FOIAs allow us to get any information needed so we can determine what changes are necessary.

Check out the Declaration of Independence, the U. S. Constitution, the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers, which word for word report the debate on just these issues. These are astonishingly short and readable.

You will discover the tendency of those elected to assume ownership of government, reversing the intended chain of management, is not a recent problem. Every generation has worried about transparency. Passed into law in 1966, the measure is one of the most important legal tools citizens and reporters have for furthering government transparency in the United States.

We have the power to change our form of government, a possibility now coming under consideration for all of us in the County of Ashtabula. But any form of government needs to be watched.

We, the people, are intended to be in control, but as things stand today, control does not matter if we do not understand everything about what those elected to serve us are doing. If they balk, use a FOIA, directions readily available online from such sites at the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

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