Election Edition 3/16/15

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In observance of Sunshine Week, which shines a light on transparency in government, we asked the leading four mayoral candidates in the April 7 election what, if any, changes they would make to the city's requirements for the Colorado Open Records Act.

The city now charges $20 per hour in search and redaction fees, with the first two hours free, and 25 cents per page above 25 pages.

Joel Miller, via email:
Our CORA process does not allow for the level of transparency that our citizens deserve from their government.
1) I will remove the City Communications department from the process. Currently, the perception exists that this step is designed as a PR aspect which should not be a part of the process.
2) The City IT department should be the lead agency on the release of City emails. Under the system currently in place, emails are only released if individuals haven't deleted them and if they make the positive decision to release them. If an IT archive search of key words from a request produces results, those resulting emails should be forwarded to the City Attorney's Office for review. If the subject matter does not involve specific exceptions detailed in the Colorado Open Records Act, the emails should be released immediately. If any materials are denied based on these exceptions, I will personally be notified.
3) Using the above process will result in less staff time and lower charges. Costs should be uniform, predictable and only related to the legal staff time required for review.
If I am elected, there will be a heretofore unseen level of transparency in City government.

John Suthers says in an email, "I am very familiar with the letter and intent of the Colorado Open Records Act. Our policy will be for maximum access without burdening Colorado Springs taxpayers. So our charges will be the minimum possible and we will review and possibly change existing charges in that light." 

Mary Lou Makepeace says in an interview: "If it's making copies, I suppose there should be some cost, but again, I don't think we should penalize people if they want to know more about their government. If there is a cost, it should be reflective of the cost to provide it." She says when the city withholds information, it appears the city has something to hide. With the exception of matters that are protected from disclosure by law, such as personnel actions, offers made to acquire property and attorney-client privilege, she says, "I think everything should be open to everyone. When you ask for information, it should be shared. You shouldn't have to go through a whole lot of hoops to get information." A better IT system, she adds, would help the city be responsive to records requests for email, which now go into "a black hole, as I understand it," she says.

Amy Lathen in an email through a spokesperson:
The costs to the public of accessing documents can be burdensome. But
there must be a balance between making sure the public has access to hard
copies of public documents and protecting taxpayer dollars from broad
document requests.

Fee schedules should include a reasonable number of pages for free
followed by cost-per-page reproduction.

For oversized documents, certified copies, color copies, maps,
photographs, etc., fees must never exceed the actual cost of reproduction.
The process must be simple, accessible and available for citizens and
media without hassle. Furthermore, the fee for electronic format should
be the actual cost of device plus research and retrieval time. Specific
fee schedules will be evaluated as part of the budget audit which I will
perform.

If you'd like more about the state's sunshine laws, think about attending a Colorado Freedom of Information Council-sponsored panel discussion on Wednesday in Denver. Panelists include John Ferrugia, 7NEWS investigative reporter; Qusair Mohamedbhai, civil rights attorney; Sara Neel, ACLU attorney; Rich Orman, senior deputy DA for the 18th Judicial District; and Noelle Phillips, Denver Post crime reporter. Kyle Clark, 9NEWS anchor, is moderating.

To attend, RSVP at http://coloradofoic.org/upcoming-events/. It’s free.

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Mayoral candidate Mary Lou Makepeace will host a young workforce round table at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Library 21C in north Colorado Springs.

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The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 has endorsed John Suthers for mayor in the April 7 election. Here's a statement from the local:
After researching and interviewing all candidates, the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters, and The Colorado Springs Police Protective Association are proud to announce our endorsement of John Suthers in his bid to become the next Mayor of Colorado Springs. We believe Mr. Suthers possesses the experience, leadership, and collaborative nature necessary to move Colorado Springs forward. Mr. Suthers demonstrates a clear understanding of the issues that confront both firefighters and police officers, and is committed to providing the resources necessary to do our jobs. We are excited to work with him, so that we may continue to provide the best possible public safety to our community. John Suthers is the right choice to lead our city, and the right choice for public safety.
IAFF Local 5 spokesman Jeremy Kunze says the group's endorsements for City Council will follow meetings with the candidates on March 23.

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