Monday, January 05, 2009

Put PA's open-records law to good use

A lot of people have the mistaken impression that Pennsylvania's new open-records law is intended to help make the lives of newspaper reporters easier.

The law that went into effect Jan. 1 can benefit every Pennsylvania resident who demands government accountability.

It is designed to give every Pennsylvania citizen access to their government, whether it's at the local, county or state level.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some good examples of how everyday citizens can put the new law to good use:
Did you miss a meeting of your township supervisors? If they make audiotapes, those are considered open records, so you should be able to listen to a recording.

Did it seem as if it took the fire truck a long time to reach the scene of a calamity? Emergency 911 time response logs are public records, which should reflect the time of a call and the time the unit was dispatched, for example.

Which intersections are considered the most dangerous? The state Department of Transportation maintains a list, and that's a public record.

Curious about the background of city employees? Their applications and resumes should be public documents.
Read the full editorial, "Open state: A citizens' guide to Pennsylvania's new records law," at the newspaper's Web site.

And don't forget to bookmark the Web site of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records,

No comments: