Public Records requests

Hi Marcy and Starchild. I feel there is a benefit to knowing some of this information, as long as something is done with it, as Michael pointed out in his workshop. The request for information about properties that The City owns is particularly pertinent as the trend for The City to "acquire" more properties for "affordable housing" is hopelessly in motion now. Especially since the Surplus Public Lands measure has been withdrawn, there will not be any attempt now to figure out what The City owns, and this would be good information to pass on to the public via the news media, though the media is pretty useless here. Perhaps Joel Engardio or the SF Weekly. As for the information about incarcerated persons, let's see what comes out of that. Our interest would be victimless crimes, and that info should definitely be made available to the public--again through the media.
I do agree with your point, Marcy, about making outrageous requests for no reason. They might try to claim that they need more workers if everyone started submitting sunshine requests.
Thanks!Aubrey

Your last sentence is my concern, Aubrey! I would hate to see the Libertarian Party get any more sidelined, or the government hire even more folks because we are creating a whole lot of work for them.

Marcy

Marcy,

  I understand your concern. A lot of times we encounter situations like this -- could a particular form of activism actually backfire and end up increasing the size/scope/cost/power of government? In some hypothetical cases the answer would seem to clearly be "yes", so it behooves us to be careful what we do and how we go about it. In this case though, my thoughts are as follows:

• My records requests were seeking information I really would like to know, and which directly relates to activism I hope we'll engage in, ammunition for writing ballot arguments, etc., and I think these are the best kinds of requests.

• If the city government hired some additional employees to respond to requests for information, would that be a bad thing? My calculation is always along the lines of asking questions such as, "Does this change tip the balance of power in favor of the people, or the government?" and "Does this reduce or increase the overall amount of harm being inflicted by government?" In that calculation, making it easier to find out what government officials are up to might be worth a slight additional expense, just as increasing the budget of the Public Defender's office might result in an overall harm reduction.

• I agree that requesting government information to which there is no practical conceivable advantage in having made public, just to waste the government's time, may be a net negative, since there is a chance it could lead to more government spending as you say. I say "may" because it's also possible that it could result in harm reduction by occupying the time of government personnel with a task that will not have any adverse impact on the public and taking them away from some other task that might be doing harm!

• There is also the consideration that if politicians seek more money in order to fund additional employees to work on responding to requests for information, this may interfere with them seeking more money for other things! (Observe for instance how they typically plan very carefully which bond measures, tax increases, and so on to place on voters' ballots, out of justified fear that if they ask for too much, it may lead more voters to reject everything.)

• Nevertheless, since those things are uncertain, I agree with trying to limit our requests to information which we think really will clearly benefit the public and the libertarian agenda to have made public. There are so many legitimate things deserving of more sunshine that if we crafted our requests carefully with proper advance research we could probably send a dozen a day for years on end without ever descending into frivolous requests!

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))

Hi Starchild,

Tanks for your comments. In my view, any increase -- even by one window clerk -- in government employment is a bad thing! I want at least 3/4's of government employees right now to move to gainful employment! So, please, don't terrify me with talk about LPSF submitting inquiries at "a dozen a day for years."

I would encourage LPSF to have a particular plan of action before making any inquiries. As opposed to making inquiries and then just have the information in case something comes up.

As an aside on this subject. I am thinking that if the sheriff does release name, address, and other personal information on people who are in jail but not convicted of any crime, that would be an invasion of privacy I am not comfortable with. I feel that knowing the number of people held under these circumstances and for how long (without invasion of privacy) would, on the other hand, be useful in specific efforts to reduce this unacceptable type of detention.

Marcy

Starch:

This may be nitpicking, but I wanted to respond to your question in the second paragraph below.

“Does this change tip the balance of power in favor the people or the government?”

This is not a good question to ask.

“The people” is not some homogeneous glob that is opposed by “the government”.

Society is a collection of various interest groups; there is no common good.

Every act of government is an act of violence or potential violence against some group or group….for the benefit of some other group or groups.

Government has gotten as large as it has because a lot of people want government to do something for them…at someone else’s expense.

I would first identify the group that benefits from the change and the group that is harmed.

And then ask “why is it right for government to plunder one group to enrich another.

Why is it is right to empower one group by disempowering another group?

Just a thought.

Les