Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Commissioners Wrong on Open Records Requests

The County unanimously voted to impose a fee on persons submitting certain open records requests. And they were unanimously wrong for doing so.

Some might say I'm sensitive about open records because of the bullshit Emma Acosta and Mike Noe pulled on me a little over a year ago. I'll accept that.

First, lets address the elephant in the room. And by elephant, I mean the Republican Dori Fenenbock. The reality is that this decision by the Court was in response to the fact that the County Judge's office is getting a shit ton of open records requests from Fenenbock's campaign.

The Judge is in the congressional picture and of course Fenenbock is going to try to go through her long public record. Thats a consequence of being a sitting elected official and having a long history. People are going to go through it.

I resent having to pay for public documents out of principle. They are public, which means they are mine. Why do I have to pay you, for my shit. Government things they are a fucking bank, the only other people I can think of that have the audacity to charge you for your own shit.

The reality is that this is a short-term problem and the commissioner court found a way to find the shittiest solution to a short-term problem possible.

The reality is that the fee can't be so much that it serves as a deterrent from making the request of the records. So by definition, this is a policy that is going to disproportionately affect people who aren't wealthy but still want to engage their government.

And sorry to crush the dreams of the Judge's staff, but the fee won't even slow down the Fenenbock team's bid to dig for dirt, which is what the open records requests are all about. They have a shit-ton of money, they can afford any request.

So the only people it disincentives from sending in requests are the people who can't afford it.

Way to go commissioner's court, use a cannon to kill a mosquito.

Now their going to justify this by saying that other entities have charged more for less. Which is true. But, what problem is being solved by enacting this policy? Its not like that amount of money pays for your average county staffer's time.

They are also going to say that other entities charge for the information then why shouldn't they? Well if you weren't charging before, is there a compelling reason to change that policy that doesn't involved the congressional race?


This is feel good, do nothing policy.

Also for those you wondering, the resign to run law doesn't affect school board members, which is why Dori can run around talking about her campaign while still holding her seat as a school board member. The Judge still has to whisper.


Anonymous said...

"So the only people it disincentives from sending in requests are the people who can't afford it."
So true Jaime... This new rule, is so wrong & they need to come up with a more inclusive policy or leave it alone."
Sergio Lewis

Anonymous said...

Excellent column Jaime!
This move does many things:
1. It brings more media and attention to Fenenbock.
2. It makes records requests more expensive and out of reach for "the little people" and everyday citizen who is trying to be involved in government.
3. It is easy to spin to make Escobar seem anti-Government Transparency. It can be spun to seem like she has something to hide.

Anonymous said...

No one in government likes ORR, but they are part of the system and should be dealt with in a manner that is easiest for all people to participate. The County is purposely trying to obstruct transparency and should be called out on it. The policy is also open for abuse. Who determines how long it takes to fulfill the request? The Judge could say something takes 8 hours when someone else could do it in one. Is this how Escobar will be as a Congresswoman? Will I be charged for ORR once she is in Congress? Dori is gaming the system, but Escobar shouldn’t be allowed to change the rules just because she has so many things she wants to bury.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but when records are being requested as part of a political campaign, I don't want government employees, paid with my tax dollars, doing opposition research for any politician. Reality is that normal citizens rarely make repeated and successive requests for mounds of documents targeting one individual. Those employees conducting the searches, the attorneys reviewing the docs and making sure it's done within mandated timeframes, are taking time from their regular duties to fo someone else's dirty work. That doesn't serve the greater public. It serves that political operative's bottom line. When Townsend Allala made all those open requests from the City of El Paso, she paid a ton of money and rightfully so. She didn't do it because she was running a political campaign. She did it as a private citizen and she paid. You political operatives are doing your job too. I get it. But don't use up my tax dollars to carry out your hit jobs.

Izzy Montes said...

I'm glad you see it this way, Jaime. If Escobar and the cc cared so much about the time spent on the requests, why don't they use some of that money they gave themselves as a raise to hire on a full-time employee to handle the requests?