2020 Was a Slow Year for Government Newsletters

I began 2020 thinking I was going to get back into FOIA requests. When the pandemic hit, that took a backseat as I became more concerned with me and my family’s well being – both mental and physical. My free time went into bingeing tv shows, playing my Switch, and starting to play guitar again.

However, I still did a few requests throughout the year. I concluded 2020 by asking some state and local organizations for copies of their internal newsletters.

Usually internal newsletters are a treasure trove of information: recipes, redacted birthdays, retirements, and book club announcements. This year the newsletters were spartan. I did find it interesting that there was not a single redaction in all of the records I obtained.

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Harold Washington’s FBI File

I recently read Fire on the Prairie and it is an excellent book about the life of former mayor of Chicago Harold Washington. It was really eye opening in many ways. I have always heard about the so-called Council Wars, but I had no idea that one of the main driving factors was Washington’s race; the other was he was a non-machine politician.

I could probably do another blog post on the book and how a lot of the bigots in power then are still around today, but I want to talk about an omission from the book.

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Being in the FOIA Dumps

Last year at this time I wrote how reading The Art Of Access: Strategies For Acquiring Public Records put some swagger back into my FOIA requests. Well dear reader, it’s a year later and I feel like I’ve lost that swagger.

I’ve done a lot of requests lately but I have gotten mainly no responsive records and a lot of 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(v) exemptions. It’s disheartening especially since I do this on the side of my regular job as a hobby and I don’t have the resources or time to follow up and appeal with every request.

That being said, I still have a healthy backlog of requests to submit and I’m going to post a few quick blogs about these FOIA trials and tribulations. No records is never a fun response to open, but I am still an ardent believer in accountability and transparency and will keep fighting the good fight.