Open government isn’t free

A couple weeks ago I made fun of a Seattle Times editorial for suggesting that public agencies actually profit off of public records requests, for which some folks attacked me as some sort of anti-sunshine government stooge.  Well, in a guest column this week, attorney Ramsey Ramerman also took issue with Times, reiterating that open government is worth it, but it doesn’t come cheap:

Open government is not easy. Trust is hard to mint. It also isn’t free. Unlike in most states that allow agencies to charge for search time, agencies in Washington charge only for copy costs. Taxpayers foot the bill for the rest. Fairley’s bills try to look out for taxpayer dollars by making sure requesters are paying for the actual cost of copies they request. Why should taxpayers have to pay for copies when a requester asks for copies and then chooses not to pick them up?

Our public servants work hard to keep government open and to serve as prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars. It is too bad The Times insists on attacking them simply because they are trying to do both in hard economic times.

Something for nothing is always a popular position, but it isn’t very realistic or responsible.  The Times wants government agencies to be more responsive to public records requests, but doesn’t want to invest the money that would make this possible.  Pretty typical.


  1. 1

    delbert spews:

    Vigilance of government is a cost that should be borne by government. A moderate cost to dissuade ‘monkey wrenchers’ from requesting the moon and stars is appropriate. But too many times Bureaucrats use an outrageous cost of copying as a means of hiding what they don’t want the public to see.

    Open government could be _almost_ free by providing electronic versions of the requested documents.

    All the more reason for smaller, less parasitic governments at all levels.

  2. 2

    Gordon spews:

    Website permalinks and downloadable, cryptographically secured documents (for chain of custody issues) for citizen offline archival are the solution.

    I mean seriously, in this day and age why are we as tax payers paying to print dead tree editions of anything? I am definitely for open government. But if a legal entity has a problem with the government let them print the documents they need, or else have the option to pay for hard copy that the state agency can provide as a convenience. I have no problem with anyone petitioning the government for anything for any reason. The transaction costs should be basically nil, if done right. And the cost to maintain these documents are servers, while not nil, are a hell of a lot cheaper than warehouse real estate to hold hard copy.

    Now obviously there are historical records that might not be digitized yet, but that is why we employ archivists. That should be their mission to come up with a plan to digitize as much information as possible. If it is not already being done.

    Also, we should have very long retention requirements for digitized records.

  3. 3


    Goldy/HA, consider this an intervention:

    You talk about the Seattle Times too much. You also rely on them too much for your source of ideas. This blog has basically become “Goldy comments on what he’s read in the local paper.” It’s also become “Goldy bitches about the Seattle Times. You can do that, but you need more variety and balance. I’m not sure if you applied for a position there and they turned you down, or what, but your obsession with them is hurting your blog.

    Just being honest.

  4. 4

    Brenda Helverson spews:

    The Open Records Act allows the public to inspect the ORIGINAL public records. Copies are optional. The Act further mandates that the citizen may make their own copies on the agency’s equipment, subject to the 10 cent per page charge.

    Allowing agencies to charge for search time is a very bad idea. Access to public records should not become a profit center.

  5. 5

    YLB spews:

    The Minnow is one of those “monkey wrenchers”.

    For our entertainment he occasionally leads his followers to flail over the short pier in Greenlake.

    When will they ever learn?

  6. 6

    Gordon spews:

    @4 I agree.

    Why do we need to pay for search gate keepers? Part of open access means that we can search ourselves the public record and come to our own conclusions. Why should we have to trust the due diligence of a gatekeeper? And obviously there is some information that needs to be redacted from the general public and protected (citizen’s personal identities for example). But this redaction should be done at the point of acquisition and it should be clear that there is redacted information and clear means of obtaining it if one is legally entitled to the redacted information. A plaintiff or defendant in a court document for example.

  7. 7

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Goldy has a hard-on for the Blethens.
    Apparently they have been too capitalistic and oppose Goldy’s sick view of the world as a Socialist Empire lead by Emporer Goldy.

  8. 8

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Seattle Jew is a liar!

    33. @32 Pudge

    On rationality. No. I am quite willing to recognize ideas that I do not agree with as rational. For example, although I am an atheist, I think belief in God is rational. Similarly, I think not taxing dividends can be rational and even understand how opposition to abortion is a rational POV.

    What is NOT rational:

    1. Intelligent design/creationism
    2. Belief in Bush’s competence
    3. Belief that our healthcare system is sustainable.
    4. Belief in debt as opposed to taxation as a way of financing our society.
    5. Disbelief in global warming.


    There are indeed some absurdities on the left too, but none of them are as doctrinaire as this. Voting Publican is becoming like voting Luddite.

    You can see a lot more of my thoughts at SeattleJew

    Posted by: SeattleJew on September 1, 2007 07:10 PM

    Today SJ tells us:

    61. SeattleJew spews:

    @56 Cynical Mistah

    1. Convert? I am a committed Jew, but I would guess you have no idea what Judaism means. Ignorance is a wonderful thing.

    You really are much more pathetic than I ever imagined. God is a real joke. Typical swollen-headed, huge ego doctor fill with self-importance and self-worship.
    Good luck with that SJ

  9. 9

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    Of course the government isn’t free. It’s paid for by lobbyists and corporations that expect favors for the “donations” they give.
    I wonder what Allen Stanford is expecting from his contributions to democrats.
    We already know what ken lay got from his contributions to democrats during the clinton presidency.
    Say, what ever happen to that hsu guy that was a fundraiser for hillary?

  10. 10

    Marvin Stamn spews:

  11. 11

    Marvin Stamn spews:

  12. 12

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    What? John kerry was exposed carrying a letter from hamas for obama?
    U.S. officials are furious with the United Nations for its role in Hamas’ attempt to enlist U.S. Sen John Kerry to transfer a letter from the Palestinian militant group to President Obama during Kerry’s trip to the Middle East

    Kerry turned the letter over to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem on Friday, saying he was unaware that it was from Hamas until hearing about the letter in media reports, including on the BBC.

    I wonder why this trick was never tried with a republican official.
    Also strange the media had to inform kerry what he was transporting, is kerry really that clueless? Now we see why the country voted for bush instead of kerry.
    A democratic presidential candidate openly aiding a terrorist group.
    Not a good change, but at least obama kept his word about CHANGE.

  13. 13

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    Stephen fowler of “wife swap” fame showed the world how a good liberal views those they don’t agree with.
    He fits exactly the stereotype of a liberal. Hates the military, finds it “humiliating” and “objectionable” to sing the national anthem, thinks those with less than a 158 IQ are idiots. Hates fat people, despite the fact his wife is in the weight loss business. Is this why left-wingnuts are so bad at business, they routinely insult the people they profit off of?
    No change here, typical liberal hate for others.

  14. 14

    correctnotright spews:

    Poor Stamm i soff his meds again – citing the false “letter” from Hamas?

    why don’t you just cite the lying George Will who can’t even reference a science article without screwing up. the whole right wing garbage machine is one big embarassment.

    I am especially impressed witht he idiot republican governors who claimed they would not take the stimulus money – but are finding ways to welcome it instaed of impoverishing their state residents – ‘cept the idiot Jindal who thinks unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs are not important in LA.

    Keep blabbing on Stamm – you have no credibility on anything. You spout the same lies and right wing talking points of the other mental midgets.

  15. 15

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    14. correctnotright spews:
    Poor Stamm i soff his meds again – citing the false “letter” from Hamas?

    Wow, that link you provided to prove it was false was amazing.
    I’m sure you can understand why I believed it to be true, it was in the left-wing newspaper the NY Times.
    A Hamas leader has asked President Obama to engage with his militant movement, rather than marginalize, it in a letter that was passed through United Nations officials in Gaza to Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, during a visit there on Thursday.
    I have a challenge for you…
    Since I just provided a left-wing link about kerry and the letter, why don’t you provide a right-wing link to prove it’s fake.
    Of course, you don’t have to provide a link proving what you believe. I know that’s not your style.

  16. 17

    ArtFart spews:

    8 No, Cyn. SJ is eminently sane. You’re not.

    Of course, since you are insane, you’ll never believe it.

  17. 18

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    Marvin, even the Daily Kooks Moonbat!s are apoplectic over Hillary and Amnesty International regarding the China comments. You gotta read their “comments”, then sanitize your computer. Virus and spam check it.

  18. 19

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    TartyFart:@17: You need to consult with Lee. I think he leans toward Cynical in his SJ views.

    Personally, I like SJ. He’s Okay in my book.

  19. 20

    WatchManOnThe Wall spews:

    John Kerry, is a clueless idiot, but you would think he would at least be nosy enough to wonder what he is carrying around for Gods sake,These are the people in charge of this country.Who ever believes that he didnt know what he was taking to the U.S. consolate, doesn’t know John Kerry’s track record very well.
    And the spendocrats aint talkin.

    Well i just want my freedoms as promised in the constitution and the spendocrats can keep the change……….

  20. 21

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    16. K spews:
    Well, Marv, Hamas denies it:

    You’re right. The link you provided says hamas denied it.
    A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had said Hamas left a letter for Obama at a U.N. compound in Gaza where Kerry paid a call on Thursday.

    “Hamas denies any such thing had happened. No letter was given to John Kerry,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Islamist group.

    The UN says they did, hamas said they didn’t.
    And you would rather believe hamas than the UN.
    Guess that shows which side you are on.
    Did you vote for obama?

  21. 22

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    20. WatchManOnThe Wall spews:
    John Kerry, is a clueless idiot, but you would think he would at least be nosy enough to wonder what he is carrying around for Gods sake,These are the people in charge of this country

    I hope the terrorists weren’t using it as a test.
    Will they next time they will give him an envelope filled with anthrax with instructions written on the outside, “don’t open until you are with the president.”
    Ands the democrats wonder why bush was reelected.

  22. 23

    correctnotright spews:

    @22: In case you forgot, idiot Stamn, Bush left office with a lower approval rating than Nixon after Watergate.

    In case you forgot, Bush apporved torture (and abrogated a treaty that Reagan signed). Bush made us an international embarassment. Bush lied about WMDs and lied about yellowcake. Bush politicized the Justice department illegally. Bush creatd the largest budget deficit in history. Bush has been discredited and most people were glas to see him go. Even McCain ran away from Bush in the election.

  23. 24

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    23. correctnotright spews:
    @22: In case you forgot, idiot Stamn, Bush left office with a lower approval rating than Nixon after Watergate.

    And this has to do with my reply @22 because? I guess when all else fails, bash bush.
    Either way, kerry lost. The democrats put up one of the worst candidates they could find. Bush beat him. Bush got over 50% of the vote. Beat kerry in popular vote, electoral votes and in total number of states won.
    And then the worst candidate ends up carrying a letter for the president from hamas. Ouch.

  24. 25

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    17. ArtFart spews:

    8 No, Cyn. SJ is eminently sane. You’re not.

    Of course, since you are insane, you’ll never believe

    No comment on SJ’s sanity…All I’m saying is he lied about being a “Committed Jew” in response to my statement that he is an Atheist (which he obviously is)

  25. 26

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Why would SJ LIE about Judaism saying he is a committed Jew when numerous times he proudly stated he was an Atheist??
    What else is he lying about?????

  26. 27

    K spews:

    So Marv, let’s say this is true
    “A Hamas leader has asked President Obama to engage with his militant movement, rather than marginalize, it in a letter that was passed through United Nations officials in Gaza to Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, during a visit there on Thursday.”
    What’s the problem? If they are seeking to be engaged with us, and want contact, what’s wrong? We can certainly reject or impose requirements.

    Are you afraid?

  27. 28

    John spews:

    Where is Daddy Love when you need him (which is rarely)?

    It’s bad enough that cash-rich Microsoft lays off people in these economically difficult times, but lay them off and then demand back the severance pay that you’ve given them:



    Of course, this follows on the heels of the heat the company’s receiving for laying off American workers before some of its foreign crew:

    Daddy, where’s the love?

  28. 29

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    Wow there is a big positional swing by K@27.

    First he says Hamas denied it @16. Then confronted by the UN statement (which K supports more) K makes this statement…

    So Marv, let’s say this is true

    K you have to decide where you stand, Hamas or UN?

    Which is it? Hamas has many friends in the UN. Maybe you can hide your Hamas support by fronting UN support.

  29. 30

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    Cynical, Dr NotRight is not right upstairs lately.
    He whips out his 50 cent argument when all else fails.
    Puddy confronted him with the CIA Director Panetta’s 2003 comments on Saddam, Iraq, and WMD.
    Puddy displayed multiple CIA Director Panetta comments on Saddam, Iraq, and WMD. Dr NotRight ignored them.
    Puddy displayed Bill Clinton’s comments on Saddam, Iraq, and WMD. Dr NotRight ignored them.

    Sure Bush didn’t do everything right. But he did keep us safe after 9/11. The bad guys are still in Bagram and Gitmo.

    Dr NotRight ain’t right upstairs. May I suggest self medication?

  30. 31

    Puddybud, Hey it's the new year... spews:

    Cynical, ask any Moonbat! and it’s easy to see:

    Detainees held on a U.S. controlled marine base in Cuba (Gitmo) have constitutional rights, while detaineess held on a U.S. controlled air base in Afghanistan (Bagram) have no constitutional rights.

    Must be a hemispheric effect.

    Must be we’re giving Castro a break.

    Must be one is an airbase while the other is a marine base.

    Must be the water vs. the desert dust.

    Yes “open” government isn’t free. HEH HEH HEH.

  31. 32

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    If these issues didn’t involve life & death and National Security, I could possibly find a teeny-bit of humor in the KLOWN stands on these issues.
    The KLOWNS are much worse than what they claim to abhor and are leading us down the path to a massive security disaster. WHEN it happens, they will melt away…like a dog turd in the hot sun.

  32. 33

    Mike in Greenwood spews:

    See, this is why I seldom visit this blog: Most of the posts are off-topic, and even the ones that are lack facts, reason or rational thought. It’s one thing to argue about “points of view”, but when you’re not even talking about facts the discussion is pointless.

  33. 34

    Thomas spews:

    The left wackos have been released for Sunday’s outing. Let’s see who we can spot leaving the barbwire electrified gate.

    KKK Grand Dragon, which still sports the jargon on the senate floor. Senator who left his girl friend for dead in a river.

    Gay freak who dates co- opts dealing with congress, Same freak who’ boy/ girl ran a gay prostitution shop in his /her basement and said he never knew.

    A little senator still wearing tennis shoes who had her main contributor win a navy contract to build a ship the navy never wanted.

    Look at all these donkeys so many smart men who can’t do their taxes yet vote against simple tax.

    We have a black congressman with frost bit on his left hand.

    Oh who is this jerk pushing him self in front of the camera of yes, the senator from NY who wanted to ban frosty flakes in 2006.

    I see a little black man with big ears flying over the fence he has billions of dollars dropping from his baggy paints could this be him? Must be he keeps saying gloom and doom statements. I think he’s in for the long haul.

    The only urge they get to win is power never country first and have poor people likes of HA to back them.

    Come Monday they will be ruining our country for another 4 days.

  34. 35

    steve spews:

    Funny how Thomas says “black” a lot. Odd, he doesn’t describe the senator from NY as “white”. Nor does he describe the senator wearing tennis shoes as “white”. I wonder what’s up with that? Are you a racist? If so, I’ve got a black guy on the other thread who’d be probably pleased to be your “bestus bud”. First, though, do you hate the New York Times?

  35. 36

    Thomas spews:

    Find a life Steve.

    Funny how you go right by the KKK.
    How many years have disliked the Cuban people Steve? It shows in your posting.
    Are you a racist like the other HA?
    New York Times ???????? Who gives a crap.