What should I be doing differently?

Here at the Lucy Burns Institute at the beginning of the hazy, slow days of summer in a lake town, we’re getting several calls a week from folks who are thinking about filing an open records request who want some advice or pointers.

Here’s my quandary. What I want is for people to feel empowered to type up that FOIA request, put a stamp on it, and get it out the door.

What usually happens, though, is that I start talking about all the dozens of different contingencies in an open records request that might result in getting a denial, and how they might handle that.

Before long (I’m sure) the person who called is thinking, “Oh, geez, it’s just going to be too much trouble” and feels the opposite of empowered.

I want people to be empowered with information, but to also have a reality-based view of what might happen, and I don’t think I’m splitting the difference very well.

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2 responses to “What should I be doing differently?

  1. I say tell them to follow Nike’s advice and “Just Do It”. Then, they will either get the reply they hoped for, or some other contingency they can worry about when it happens.

  2. Orville Seymer

    I would start with a simple “Open Records Template” If anyone wants a template for Wisconsin, I can provide one. With a little bit of research, I can easily develop one for any other state.

    I would then instruct them about all the different levels of government that might have the records they are seeking.

    Then try to narrow the request to be as specific as possible and give a time frame in which the records might be available.

    It is really a quite simple process. Just like lifting weights, the more that you do it, the better and easier that the process becomes.

    Once they understand the power that they hold in their hands, the process actually becomes addictive.

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