The Citizen Advocacy Center has launched our Midwest Open Government Project which is a comprehensive study of the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts in Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Freedom of Information and Open Meetings statutes are cornerstone laws that make it possible for people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments, and monitoring government decision-making. However, despite strong public policy statements, state open government statutes are weak. Ineffective oversight, the lack of training, excessive fees, policies that fail to address the integration of technology in the business of governing, and few effective public resources to address grievances result in rampant systemic barriers to the public’s capacity to participate in the democratic process.
CAC’s study is a comprehensive overview and analysis of relevant open government publications, case law, statewide audits, and the presence and effectiveness of Public Access Counselors and Open Government Commissions that specifically identifies strengths and weaknesses in each state. In addition, CAC will create a road map for reform that can be used by advocates, the press, and the general public to implement regional reform for the purpose of dismantling barriers to public participation. The road map will include model Freedom of Information and Open Meeting statutes for each state that promote the strongest provisions identified.
The final product produced by CAC will include policy reports for each state that includes recommendations for reform, citizen guides and model statutes.