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.