Village clerk should oversee FOIAs

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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As a candidate in the upcoming election for the Oak Park Village Board, I oppose the transfer of authority over Freedom of Information Act requests from the village clerk to the village attorney. The change, put in place by the village manager over the holidays, is described as a "technical" matter, necessitated by new technology. 

As we all know, computers are programmed by people and people have agendas. In a governance context, those agendas often relate to power. As citizens of Oak Park, we need to be wary of an excessive concentration of power in the village administration. The Founding Fathers pointedly designed a system of governance to guard against just such impulses at the national level. The systematic dismantling of the Village Clerk's Office over the past 10 years constitutes an example of the dynamic about which they warned at the local level. 

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was designed to serve as a check on the propensity of bureaucracies toward secrecy and on the propensity of bureaucrats toward self-protection and preservation. It is important that responsibility for its execution remain independent of that bureaucracy. On that basis, as well as on the basis of more general considerations, the Office of the Village Clerk should be provided a meaningful role within village government to include the responsibility of overseeing FOIA requests.

James Thompson 

Oak Park 

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