Unlocking City Information

- March 28th, 2012

It seems the public is filing more and more access-to-information requests with City Hall, and apparently they’re chewing up resources.

It’s making the city say, hey, why don’t we just give the public more access to information generally?

That’s the partial gist of this report to the finance and economic development committee.

Says the report:

During the past four years, formal requests for access to information at the City through MFIPPA have steadily increased. Upon an internal review, it has been determined that various requests held no requirement to access confidential or proprietary information and therefore the records could have been provided directly from the responsive program area, to the requester.  It appears possible that some City staff are hesitant to release information due to a lack of understanding precisely what information is protected under MFIPPA and what is considered a routine disclosure or “business as usual”. 

MFIPPA, by the way, is short for Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The report says the city will find ways to make information more available to the public without having to file a formal access request, which costs people $5. For formal requests, the city is considering posting the results to its open data page 30 days after the requester receives the information.

This is all good news in the interest of transparency, but hopefully there will be a buy-in from staff. One of the reasons why the public — especially us in the press — frequently use formal requests is because there has been a roadblock somewhere, and staff are compelled to provide as much information as legally possible to the access-to-information department when a request comes in.

Categories: City

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3 comments

  1. Earle Rheaume says:

    This is how I see our elected and non elected management operate.

    Ignore and/or defer what can and should be done today to another date and time. And when that date comes, defer it again.

    There are too many councillors and senior staff attending too many meetings that are not productive, inefficient and ineffective. I cannot and will not accept the delays, apologies, investigations and staff research projects that are never ending throughout city hall.

    I bring the following specifically to your attention:

    The responsibilities of the public servant to the public: accessibility, fairness and efficiency
    Bruce Rawson 1
    1 federal economic development coordinator for the Province of Alberta

    ABSTRACT:
    Bureaucratic behaviour, as well as being subject to a set of formal institutional controls, is influenced by a sense of responsibility towards the public. This responsibility includes the obligations to provide access, fairness and efficiency.

    Accessibility, in the sense of actively seeking out public input, is seldom a simple task, since the tendency is to consult with groups that are likely to be sympathetic, or alternatively, to provide a hearing for the views of the more strident or powerful elements in the community to the disadvantage of less articulate, but often more representative, opinions
    .
    Public servants have a particular responsibility to speak out for fairness and equity, since the nature of their work is likely to provide them with the fullest information on the winners and losers from particular policy decisions. Advocating changes in policy design for reasons of fairness is also a difficult and time-consuming task
    .
    With respect to efficiency, the public service does not rank high in public esteem. Changes which are intended to lead to greater efficiency are often resisted by those elements of the public who fear that the change will redound to their disadvantage.

    Improved responsiveness and responsibility to the public will come from better coordination among departments where policies extend beyond the mandate of any one department, from tailoring policies to regional or local circumstances where national objectives are not going to be undermined, and from encouraging bureaucratic initiative and entrepreneurship among operational staff

  2. Earke Rheaume says:

    Jon,

    Just wondering why my comment was deleted from your “unlocking cityinformation?

  3. Earle Rheaume says:

    Thanks Jon

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