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This isnít open government
(Published December 3, 2001)

From its start in 1998, the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams has extolled its support for "open government." That means allowing the public full and free access to government records and documents, with few exceptions that primarily relate to personnel actions and criminal investigations in progress. Itís what the Districtís Freedom of Information Act requires.

Yet, The Common Denominator ó like the Sierra Club, as related in a guest column on the facing page ó has found the D.C. government often ignores legally imposed deadlines for its own compliance with requests for public information that are made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The D.C. government also often imposes cumbersome, and in our view unnecessary, bureaucratic rules for the release of public information. Why must it be the rule, rather than the exception, that requests for public documents be made in writing? If information is truly "public," it shouldnít matter who is requesting its release ó and the reason for such a request is, quite frankly, none of the governmentís business.

Invoking FOIA was meant to be the publicís recourse when government refused to release public documents. Government secrecy is out of hand when FOIA requests become the norm.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator