Open records

During Sunshine Week, here are a few things Wichita could do

During Sunshine Week, here are a few things Wichita could do

The City of Wichita says it values open and transparent government, but the city lags far behind in providing information and records to citizens. The City of Wichita is proud to be an open and transparent governmental agency, its officials say. Former Mayor Carl Brewer often spoke in favor of government transparency. For example, in his State of the City address for 2011, he listed as an important goal for the city this: "And we must provide transparency in all that we do." When the city received an award for transparency in 2013, a city news release quoted Wichita City…
Read More
Where are our documents?

Where are our documents?

Government promotes and promises transparency, but finds it difficult to actually provide. In this excerpt from WichitaLiberty.TV, I give some examples of how little information government actually shares with us, despite its proclamations. Click here to view in high definition at YouTube. Following, the script for this video excerpt. During the campaign for the one cent per dollar Wichita city sales tax last year, a city document promised this if the tax passed: “The process will be transparent, with reports posted online outlining expenditures and expected outcomes.” The “Yes Wichita” campaign promised “Reports will be measured and reported publicly.” These…
Read More
Discussion of open government in Wichita and Kansas

Discussion of open government in Wichita and Kansas

Perspectives may differ, but the point is the same -- more government transparency leads to more citizen engagement and better outcomes in communities, states, and nations. In this podcast, Kansas Policy Institute Vice President James Franko discusses government transparency with Seth Etter and Bob Weeks. Etter is the organizer of Open Wichita, an initiative to bring the benefits of open data and civic hacking to Wichita. Weeks blogs at Voice for Liberty in Wichita where he advocates for government transparency and accountability and uses open records requests to access, analyze and publish state and local government data. KPI maintains KansasOpenGov.org,…
Read More
In Wichita, open records relief may be on the way

In Wichita, open records relief may be on the way

A new law in Kansas may provide opportunities for better enforcement of the Kansas Open Records Act. This year the Kansas Legislature passed HB 2256, captioned as "An act concerning public bodies or agencies; relating to the state of Kansas and local units of government; providing certain powers to the attorney general for investigation of violations of the open records act and the open meetings act; attorney general’s open government fund ..." The good part of this law is that it provides additional enforcement options when citizens feel that government agencies are not complying with the Kansas Open Records Law.…
Read More
Wichita tourism plan should include spending disclosure

Wichita tourism plan should include spending disclosure

As part of a plan for spending a dedicated tax revenue stream, the Wichita city council should include disclosure of spending. It would fulfill a campaign promise. When the City of Wichita collects money through taxation, citizens have the right to know how it is spent. For the city, it is possible to view every check that is written, although the city is not able to supply this information in machine-readable form. But it is available. But when the city establishes non-profit corporations that are funded totally, or nearly totally, with taxes, different rules apply, says the city: Spending does…
Read More

Assistance needed in obtaining records from a government agency

September 12, 2014 Mr. Marc Bennett Office of the District Attorney Sedgwick County Courthouse Dear Mr. Bennett, I am writing to ask your assistance in obtaining records from a government agency. Specifically, I asked Go Wichita Convention and Tourism Bureau for a copy of a contract the organization recently formed with an external entity. My request was declined. The Kansas Open Records Act says this in defining which agencies are subject to the open records law: “‘Public agency’ means the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any…
Read More

Could lower open records fees threaten Kansans’ safety?

Travis Perry of Kansas Watchdog reports that governmental agencies fear that fulfilling records requests will cost too much and eliminate a necessary revenue stream. But there are solutions that may not be under consideration. For example, instead of supplying accident reports singly as they are requested, law enforcement agencies could simply make all such reports available. I can hear the objections, such as it will cost too much for each agency to maintain a website for the purposes of making reports available. But each agency doesn't have to establish and maintain a website. The state (or someone else) could easily…
Read More

Kansas Open Records Act reform possible

This week a committee of the Kansas House of Representatives will hear testimony on SB 10, a bill which would make small but welcome reforms to the Kansas Open Records Act. Following is the testimony I plan to deliver. Citizens should be aware that cities, counties, and school districts will probably oppose these reforms. Testimony to House Standing Committee on Federal and State Affairs as proponent of SB 10: Open meetings; minutes required; open records; charges limited. Bob Weeks, March 19, 2014 Representative Brunk and members of the Committee: Thank you for this opportunity to present testimony on problems with…
Read More
Kansas Open Records Act and the ‘public agency’ definition

Kansas Open Records Act and the ‘public agency’ definition

Update: The bill has been referred to another committee, and the February 19 hearing is canceled. Despite the City of Wichita's support for government transparency, citizens have to ask the legislature to add new law forcing the city and its agencies to comply with the Kansas Open Records Act. Open records laws allow citizens to ask government agencies for records. While these laws are valuable, we find that in practice governmental agencies find many ways to avoid filling records requests. Because the City of Wichita does not live up to the standards of open government -- even through it proclaims…
Read More

Transparency groups want to know where Wichita tax money is going to promote Wichita

By Craig Andres, KSN News. View video below, or click here. For more on this issue, see Open government in Kansas. WICHITA, Kansas -- Public or private? GoWichita, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition get more than three million dollars a year. Some of that is taxpayer money. "Why are their records not public?" asks Randy Brown with the Sunshine Coalition. "It's ridiculous because we ought to know. These are largely tax supported entities. It's our money that's being used. There's no reason in the world these things shouldn't be open." The Sunshine Coalition is…
Read More