Other WDET Conversations and Reporting about FOIA:
You Are Guaranteed The Right to Public Records — But How Easy Is It Actually to Get Them?
Information Disparity: Local Governments Show Wide Variety in Access to Information
Want to Ask Your Local Government for Information? Here’s Help [MAP]
The DJC reporters asked about plans for increasing governmental transparency. Here’s how the candidates answered:
Abdul El-Sayed said he supports expanding FOIA’s reach in state government. “The minute I take office I am submitting my entire administration to Freedom of Information Act accountability and would seek legislation that opens that kind of transparency across the Senate and the Governor’s office,” he said.
Shri Thanedar said he would support having FOIA apply to the governor’s office. “I will voluntarily do that and set an example of transparency. We absolutely must bring transparency and ethics,” he said.
Gretchen Whitmer said she also would open up the governor’s office to FOIA and cited the recent disclosure that a former state employee who faced scrutiny for how he handled the Flint water crisis has been contracted to do media training. “The public and the press need tools so that they can get information,” she said. “We deserve to know. We deserve to know. The public does. And we have a right and a duty to make sure that they can.
Brian Calley said more agencies within state government should be subject to FOIA, and cited a recent proposal that the executive branch would have a higher standard than the legislature. “That is not good enough. They have to be equal standards,” he said.
Patrick Colbeck said transparency legislation should focus on how state money is spent. “I think it’s the first priority,” he said. He also cautioned that FOIA could be used as a “political weapon, not as something to keep people accountable.”
Jim Hines said FOIA should extend to the governor and the legislature. “When you don’t have transparency, you can kind of do what you want. Nobody knows, and human nature leads you down a path that’s not the best for citizens of this state,” he said.
Bill Schuette declined the Detroit Journalism Cooperative’s request for a video interview, citing scheduling interviews. Click HERE to learn more about him and WDET’s coverage of his campaign.