Open records

Wichita public school logo fight legal costs

Yesterday's Wichita Eagle reported in a story that USD 259, the Wichita public school district, "... worked for about five years to get its mark registered over the objection of Washington apple growers ..." The article is referring to a logo that Wichitans for Effective Education has been using on some of its printed materials. I wondered why a public school district would spend any time or money to register its trademark, much less engage in a protracted legal effort. That can't be cheap. Someone mentioned to me that colleges do this so that they can license the use of…
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Wichita School District: Accountability is on Our Terms

USD 259, the Wichita public school district, wants to be held accountable. They say so. It's a theme of the proposed bond issue, as recently stated by celebrity spokesman George Fahnestock: "...the district’s accountability is strong..." (See CARE launches Yes For Kids campaign) But what happens when citizens seek information from USD 259 that will let them verify claims made by the district? One of the things I and others have been looking at is the number of classrooms in the district's schools. We made a records request asking for this number, and we were told this information would cost…
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Records Requests Sent Today

Today, I've made two records requests under the Kansas Open Records Act. The first, to USD 259, the Wichita public school district, is this: All correspondence between USD 259 and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and its representatives from July 1, 2007 to the present. I ask for both written and electronic correspondence such as email. This would include email between USD 259 and Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture's email accounts at sjcf.com, and also email accounts of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture representatives such as Joe Johnson, Kenton Cox, and Ken Arnold that may not be at an sjcf.com…
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Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet: Not an Example of Sarah Palin’s Transparent Government

Paul Chesser of Climate Strategies Watch has done some investigative work seeking to understand the role of The Center for Climate Strategies in Alaska. (The Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet plays the same role there that the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group (KEEP) plays here.) In his excellent and informative post Palin, Alaska's Climate Commission, and (Lack of) Transparency, Paul traces the formation of the climate change panel in Alaska by Governor Sarah Palin and CCS's involvement in that. At the same time, he illustrates the frustration that those making records requests of government agencies often experience. You can…
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Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group: Hiding Budget Numbers

Paul Chesser of Climate Strategies Watch writes about the budget transparency of the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group, or KEEP. Kansas government often has troubles with transparency. One of the main problems with KEEP is that policy is being formulated under the guidance of an outside radical environmentalist group, instead of in the legislature by Kansans, where it belongs. Climate Strategies Watch is a great place to learn more about the Center for Climate Strategies. For example: "CCS portrays itself as a technical advisory service organization that does not advocate for specific policies that will affect climate change.…
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How to Pass the Wichita School Bond Issue

For tonight's meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, a resolution has been prepared that calls for a vote on a proposed bond issue to be held on November 4, 2008. I don't know if the board will vote to approve this measure or if they will even take a vote tonight, but I suspect the resolution will pass. Randy Scholfield's editorial Put school bond issue to public vote is correct in its assessment of the feckless campaign in favor of the bond issue. But it's not all the fault of the school board or…
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When A Records Request Fails

When a citizen makes a records requests and the records that were received don't match the request, what should the citizen do? The records I received match the request I made in that they relate to the governmental entity and its relationship to a certain business, but they are for a time period much older than what I requested. Further, what wasn't supplied to me are documents that I am certain exist, and would be dated within the time frame I specified. Do citizen records requests come with a warranty?
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Earthjustice in Kansas: The Press Release

I've recently learned that the radical environmentalist group Earthjustice played a role in the rejection of a coal-fired power plant in Kansas. I didn't learn that from any Kansas news source, but only from Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and only then long after the permit for the plant was denied. See Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius at Earthjustice. Now I see Earthjustice's press release Kansas Rejects Massive Sunflower Coal-Fired Power Plant. What did Earthjustice do in Kansas, and how did they do it? These are things Kansans need to know. To that end, I've filed a request under the Kansas Open…
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Wichita Council Member Jeff Longwell: We Can, and Do, Read

Wichita City Council Member Jeff Longwell, in the news article Little time to review Warren loan terms (July 1, 2008 Wichita Eagle), was reported as remarking "It's unlikely many residents would read the full contract even if it had been made public earlier." Mr. Longwell, many people in Wichita do read documents such as these. I think a better question is whether city council members read and understand these documents. This is from before Mr. Longwell's time on the council, but in the article The Real Scandal at City Hall, I report how city council members are sometimes not aware…
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Wichita Public School District’s Taxation Without Information

Taxation without information. I wish I could take credit for inventing this phrase that I recently heard someone use. It captures very well the key characteristic of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, and its campaign for the proposed 2008 bond issue. As highlighted by Wichita Eagle columnist Mark McCormick in his column District's public files ought not cost $1,000, the Wichita public school district doesn't like to release information. Mr. McCormick accuses some bond issue opponents of using Kansas Open Records Act information requests simply to "make hay for another 'No' campaign straw man." I'll explain another day…
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