According to Robert Freeman the head of the New York State Committee on Open Government, one of the most common reason government officials make it difficult to obtain information is that they do not want to be embarrassed.

I have filed several Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests and have experienced first hand how hard it can be to obtain information from government officials.

New York City Councilmembers Gale Brewer, Ben Kallos and James Vaccahave introduced legislation titled OpenFOIL in an effort to make FOIL requests more transparent. The legislation if adopted will:

– Establish an online portal for citizens to file requests for city government records under the state’s Freedom of Information Law
– Such requests will be tracked as far as the length of time taken to respond
– All information provided in response to a FOIL request will published on the portal for anyone to read.

The legislation is modeled after an online FOIL site created in Oakland California called RecordTrac. In April 2013 New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio conducted a two year study of FOIL requests made in New York City. De Blasio found that some agencies were better than others in responding to FOIL requests and that ten percent of requests were simply ignored.

As embarrassment seems to be a motivating factor to government officials, perhaps making their responsiveness to FOIL requests for everyone to see online can have a positive effect. Departments may also be able to save the time and expense involved in handling duplicate requests for information by making all responses available for interested members of the public to see.

What do you think about the New York City OpenFOIL legislation?

About The Author

The definition of reinvent is:to replace with an entirely new version, to make over completely, to recast something familiar or old into a different form.In my opinion we need to reinvent government, business and ourselves. Today’s world is about constant change driven by the power of new ideas.For the past 17 years as an attorney, I have worked in government at the county, city, authority and school district level in the Buffalo, NY area. I have seen first hand the need for reinventing how government operates. For a period of four years, I served as Chief of Staff to the 9 member City of Buffalo Common Council. Government must engage the talents and skills of its citizens by becoming more collaborative and transparent in its decision-making and operations. Utilizing technology as a tool to engage citizens is something all governments need to explore.I have great respect for entrepreneurs as they put their passion into a vision, which results in new products, new services and new jobs. Entrepreneurs are on the front lines of change. As an adjunct college instructor, I see how students and everyone for that matter must continually change and reinvent themselves to survive and be successful in today’s crazy world economy.Some of my favorite change agent writers are Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Gary Hamel and Guy Kawasaki. I welcome the opportunity to meet new people, to further my own learning and to share ideas.On a personal note I am 47 years old, my other half Cheryl is an attorney in private practice and together we have three children, Michael age 20 and Joseph age 14 and our newest shock of an addition Julia, born 11/2/11.