Correction: In 2015, The Center for Public Integrity gave Maryland an F, not a D, for public access to information.
Capital News Article
Pimpo, Stephen, Capital Investigates: Just how public is public information in Anne Arundel?, Capital, March 18, 2016.
This article is so bad it’s hard to know where to begin. I regularly attend Sunshine Week events in DC and have written a half dozen Sunshine Week op-eds myself as well as spoken at the annual meeting of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. For details, see eLighthouse.info.
Maryland has unbelievably awful right to know laws, which have consistently been graded a D or less by the Center for Public Integrity. Hard to believe, but the 2015 legislation passed by the General Assembly actually made the right-to-know problem worse on average for average citizens seeking to understand their government. The bill started with great intentions, but by the time the government lobbyists were done with it, it did more harm than good.
To suggest that Rebecca Snyder is a champion of open government for the average citizen is a perversion of the facts. Sure, she gives lots of lip service to open government, as does every politician, appointed public official, newspaper, and PR officer on earth. But she is first and foremost a lobbyist for her industry. When it comes to meaningful action on open government bills that don’t directly affect her members’ bottom line, she is, to put it mildly, missing in action. And, surprisingly, the interests of her members and the interests of the public often conflict on open government issues.
Our say: Our government needs sunshine all year, Capital, March 20, 2016.
This is yet another PR puff piece for the Capital’s former reporter and editor, Bob Mosier. Here’s a prediction: the Capital reporter who wrote this Sunshine Week puff piece will end up as a PR officer himself and probably thinks of his Capital reporting job as good preparation for that better and higher paying job.
As for the pretense that this was a serious and anonymous study, I’ve got some swamp land in Florida to sell you….
There is a reason (see eLighthouse.info) why the Center for Public Integrity routinely gives Maryland a D or below for public access to information.
Postscript: The Capital’s 2017 Sunshine Week performance
Sunshine Week in Maryland: Details, documents sometimes elusive on local government websites, Capital, March 14, 2017
“There also has been a continuing push at all levels of government to eliminate notices of bids and procurement from independent local newspapers and news websites in favor of posting on government websites alone. As the MDDC study shows, publication and prominence can be highly unreliable if government is the only source.”
The primary focus of Rebecca Snyder, the Maryland press association’s executive director, is not open government but lobbying on behalf of government subsidies for local media outlets in the form of mandatory public notices in monopoly local newspapers. Like most other forms of classified advertising, these public notices are obsolete and should be replaced with a far more efficient and effective system based on modern technology. But they are highly profitable for local newspapers and politicians know their local newspapers will find a way to exact revenge if this subsidy is taken away.
It’s a shame that local press associations and their member newspapers have come to abuse Sunshine Week, which has such an important mission–a mission to enhance rather than harm open government. [Note: I have written separately about Rebecca Snyder’s persistent lobbying for these government handouts.]