Tag Archives: technology

Freedom of Information Doesn’t Mean Free Information


Freedom of Information isn’t Free

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
May 26, 2013
How much did taxpayers pay to rebuild, purchase and demolish those buildings on 1st Avenue and 1st Street SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Too much! But, the only way that the people who paid for it can find out about it is by obtaining public information.

How many people think that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) means free information? You would think that freedom of information would mean free information but it doesn’t; it only means you’re free to ask for the information and pay for said information.

That’s right, if you want any real information you will have to pay for it!

The equivalency of the Federal’s FOIA is the State of Iowa and City of Cedar Rapids’ “Open Records” law and ordinance, respectively.

But, just how “open” are these records?

information

Lisa Kuzela

Lisa Kuzela:

Lisa Kuzela was the Vice Chair of the Local Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee (L.O.S.T.) when she asked for pertinent public information regarding where some of the funds from the L.O.S.T. account had been appropriated.

Kuzela asked for a list of the homes purchased with the L.O.S.T. funds and was told that it would “cost her $110 for six hours of time to compile the data”.

They then used the excuse that it was a “privacy issue,” even though the same requested information for properties purchased with FEMA and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds had already been publicly listed. So, why not make available those purchased with L.O.S.T?  There was never any justification for their excuses.

Don’t take my word for it go check it out yourself!
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Greenway Area Address List.
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Construction Area Address List.


Assistant City Manager, Sandi Fowler, discusses Fees for Public Information

Kuzela is often charged for information requests from the City. On top of the research hourly fees, she is charged for scans – yes, scans! She is charged twenty-five cents per page to scan even though there is no ink or paper!

This clearly violates Iowa’s Open Records Law, State Code 22.3(2): “The fee for the copying service as determined by the lawful custodian shall not exceed the actual cost of providing the service. Actual costs shall include only those expenses directly attributable to supervising the examination of and making and providing copies of public records. ”

Kuzela states “when I pointed this out to the City, they said that the reason they have to charge the same for a scan as a hard copy is that the machine counts the scan the same as a copy. I told them I’ve never heard of such a thing and no one should have to pay for something when there’s no expense for it. However, I’ve gone along with this absurdity and been paying $0.25 per scanned page so I could get the information.”

If a citizen cares enough to request information they should not be charged for it if they are not requesting a hard copy of said information!

Kuzela goes on to say that within the past week, “they suddenly claim that the documents are off-site, so if I want the information, I have to pay them the time to go to another location to retrieve the documents at $20 per hour. This is over and above their hourly fee for the time it takes to scan (even though we have automatic feeders, now). This, too, is in addition to $0.25 per page to scan.”

What is wrong with the efficiency of our city if this information isn’t readily available – especially in the day of digital? Who are these people working for if they can charge taxpayers for public information – especially at a higher cost simply because they haven’t been well-organized in storing it?!

Aren’t we already paying them to do their job, and isn’t this part of their job? This all just sounds absurd to me!

But, it even gets worse!

Kuzela explains that “even though they’re emailing me the information (and therefore no supervising of staff is necessary while I review the information), they are now also saying that I have to pay a fee for ‘supervising the examination.’ So, does that mean I have to pay for an employee to supervise another? They haven’t responded to this question.”

I’m simply not buying that in this day and age when everything is digital that they don’t have this information scanned already and easily accessible! It’s obvious that the goal here is not to help the taxpayers get information, so they can oversee how their money’s being spent, but to prevent it. The City continually comes up with different excuses to make it as costly as possible in order to deter Kuzela from obtaining public information.

Click here for a link to Lisa Kuzela’s fundraising page.
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Journalist Adam Mueller aka Ademo Freeman faces 21 years in Prison in New Hampshire, the “Live Free or Die” state for Bogus Wiretapping Charge


There is a Cedar Rapids connection to the cop watching journalist, Adam Mueller, who will face a jury in a trial next week on a New Hampshire wiretapping case. If convicted, Adam faces up to twenty-one years in prison.

I came into contact with Copblock.org a little more than a year ago when I wasn’t getting results from my local police department. I submitted a speech to Copblock.org that I had already delivered in front of my city council on June 14, 2010. My hope was that the national exposure would create positive change in our community and in my opinion it has. http://www.copblock.org/tag/ajai-dittmar/

Adam Mueller aka Ademo Freeman, was the person in which I had exchanged a few emails with before the speech was published on Copblock.org. Adam or Ademo of Copblock.org is dedicated to voluntarism and police accountability.

Adam’s charges stem from an incident he reported on that took place in a New Hampshire High School where a sibling spat turned bad when a Police Liaison slung the teen around and then slammed his head into a table at the schools cafeteria.

I don’t know whether officials are charging Adam with wiretapping to teach him and people like him a lesson or if they are trying to cover up something bigger at the high school. In my opinion, the school should be looked into along with the police liaison over the school. As a mother I would be appalled if either one of my son’s were slammed to the table at lunch over teasing their sister with her handbag. I could see my kids doing exactly what these kids did which in my opinion is perfectly normal.

Of fifty states, twelve of them make publicizing taped interviews a crime punishable by prison New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state is on that list. One would think that in this day and age with all the technological advances we’ve made that these types of draconian laws would be thrown out.

Adam’s supporters were there in the courtroom with him after standing outside the courthouse in protest. Adam is representing himself pro se (defending himself without an attorney) and his jury was chosen on Monday, August 6, 2012. A camera was allowed into the courtroom.

Stop the State of New Hampshire from convicting Adam, write his lawmakers, make videos asking for his freedom, and spread the word about this case! http://electedlist.com/New_Hampshire.html

I wrote Adam a letter and thanked him for all he has done. The world is not a safer place with Adam behind bars. The trial begins on August 13, 2012. I will keep everyone who’s interested posted. http://www.scribd.com/collections/3735171/The-State-of-NH-vs-Adam-Mueller-aka-Ademo-Freeman here is Adam’s paperwork from the courts. If you have any ideas that could help Adam please don’t hesitate to contact Copblock.org

Meantime use the hashtag #FreeAdemo and help remind people these draconian laws still exist! http://www.copblock.org/18955/ademos-jury-selection-done-trial-in-one-week/

By the way, for my local news agencies, CNN has reported the story and it would be nice if you mentioned it too. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-824678

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