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.