The Welles Park Bulldog is seeking to force the Chicago Public Schools to release the nominating petitions of residents running for Local School Council in eleven schools, part of an effort by the on-line publication that pits privacy issues against the public’s right to know.
In a March 12th letter by Bulldog attorney Terrance Norton, Director of the Center for Open Government, to the Chicago Public Schools Freedom of Information Act Officer, Cassandra Daniels, the Bulldog requested the nominating petitions, known as Form 1-10, of Bell, Coonley, Ravenswood, Waters, Budlong, Chappell, McPherson, Courtenay, Lake View, Amundsen and Lane schools.
The form, which can be accessed here: [http://www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Departments/Documents/LSC/Form%201-10%20Candidate%20Nomination%20Form%20-%20ENGLISH.pdf], includes information the school board claims is personal and subject to an exemption under the FOIA law. Norton said that although he has had telephone conversations with Daniels, as of March 23, Norton says the school board has not replied with a written explanation of its decision. Illinois law requires public bodies to reply to FOIA requests within five working days.
“I do not agree that the use of those exemptions is proper as to the requests for the nominating petitions,” Norton said. “My client works for an electronic media that seeks to educate parents as to the qualifications of LSC candidates; and he needs to get and disseminate the information prior to the upcoming LSC elections.”
“I find it disturbing that the schools ignored the initial request of attorney Norton,” Welles Park Bulldog Editor Patrick Boylan said. “The schools, which are charged with teaching the value of our constitution, are presenting students with an excellent example of government non-responsiveness to public demands as represented by enactment of the revised FOIA laws in Illinois.
“Second, it is difficult for citizens to evaluate the character and aims of candidates without an open accounting by the candidates,” Boylan said. Boylan noted that the decision by the school district to extend the date to accept LSC nominating petitions meant that in some schools, the LSC public forum could happen before the nominating process closes.
The school board encourages people to become involved in “democratic government” at the “grass roots” level, Boylan noted, but attempts to put roadblocks in place to community involvement.
The Center for Open Government, housed at the Chicago Kent law offices,exists to support citizens who seek to exercise the powers of their office. “Citizens need a constant stream of information to provide meaningful attention to the actions of government,” the center believes. The Center offers the legal resources necessary to empower those citizens and stands with them as they exercise the powers of their office.
The Welles Park Bulldog is an on-line publication that provides news for the Ravenswood, North Center, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood Manor, St. Bens, Ravenswood Gardens, Rockwell Crossing and Graceland West communities. It’s mission is to “engage and inform readers about the important issues of the day, while serving the information needs of the community.
“The site will be a place where neighbors can thoughtfully discuss the important issues of the day,” according to its mission statement.
Welles Park Bulldog was formed this month following a partnership decision to terminate the Center Square Ledger, of which Mr. Boylan was editor.