Dan O’Neil mails a FOIA request to Chicago’s 311 service in 2007. Now, you can email most places (or fax!).
I like to say that for every dataset a government agency proactively publishes, there’s one fewer FOIA* request it has to respond to.
City officials say they get so many FOIA requests that responding to them all has become a serious resource drain. But this is one of the reasons why—we don’t have any other way to get information about our government.
As a result, I will be adding to their workload and submitting another FOIA request. I don’t mind saying this publicly since it won’t be a secret anyway. That’s because the Emanuel administration has resumed Daley’s old habit of posting FOIA requests online. It’s also kept up Daley’s habit of not posting any information showing how responsive the city is.
That’s Chicago Reader author Mick Dumke talking about his troubles obtaining some data from the Chicago Department of Human Resources. Read the entire article, where he also gives a pretty good description of the “Chicago FOIA way”, the process for getting information in Mayor Emanuel’s transparent administration.
Note: I submit a FOIA request to some agency at least once a month. My most frequent FOIA requests go to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). I also query the Chicago Police Department, and the Department of Administrative Hearings. Derek Eder has a story on how he and his colleagues worked with some Chicago staff to add new data about lobbying to the Chicago Data Portal.
*Freedom of Information Act. In California, it’s called FOIL, or Freedom of Information Law.
About Steven Can Plan
I started this blog in 2007 as the writing assignment for an introductory urban planning class at UIC. It's about cities (mainly Chicago), GIS oftentimes, and transportation (mainly bicycling). Learn more about me, Steven Vance. I also write for Streetsblog Chicago.
Steven Can Plan is hosted on Dreamhost.
Chicago Bike Map App
The Chicago Bike Map app is a bike and street map stored entirely in your iOS device – no data connection required. The map is designed to look much like the City of Chicago's official printed and online bike map. The app works on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
Highly Recommended Bike Products
The best value taillight. It has three red LEDs that alternate and provide extreme brightness. I have two of these.
These folding locks are lighter weight and more versatile than an equally strong u-lock.
Bells can be quite useful, especially to tell people in front that you're passing them. I like the ding-dong bell the best. It makes a solid DING and then DONG on the spring's return.
Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Vibrant, Healthy, and Resilient Communities (Wiley Series in Sustainable Design) by Jeffrey Tumlin
I was sent a review copy. I'm really excited to open it up and start reading because I've been disappointed with textbooks in the past that don't focus on bicycle and pedestrian planning.
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
As someone who doesn't like driving, but believes that cars can be efficient in moving groups of people and goods, this is my favorite book.