Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Cost Of Keeping Lisbon Informed --- by Joe Hill

LisbonMaine.Net and The Lisbon Reporter have been informing Lisbon Residents of local Government news for many years.  Much of this news would never have been known to the public if it weren't for the tireless efforts of a small group of dedicated people.  Most  of the background information necessary to produce these articles  comes from "Freedom Of Access Act" ( FOAA )requests. 

Lisbon Town Government in some instances has been very reluctant to produce documents that shed a negative light on itself.   One of the ways our Town tries to mitigate the damage caused by full transparency is to charge excessive administrative and copying fees to those submitting FOAA requests.

  Larry Fillmore has been footing the bill for all his FOAA requests  to date.  Larry routinely pays between  5 and 45 dollars for each of his requests.  If you multiply this by the number of requests you can quickly see it isn't cheap to keep Lisbon Residents informed. 

 In a recent FOAA request the Town  asked for over $120.00 dollars for information about the UNITIL project.   We feel this is an excessive amount of money for copies of email that could easily be sent electronically.  

Due to this excessive bill Larry has requested a waiver of fees, based on the significant contribution this information makes to public understanding of operations or activities of government, as enumerated in the Maine Revised Statutes that govern this waiver.

Mr. Terriault has given the Town his opinion on this matter.($195hr.) You can find his opinion on the Town's web site .

  He has incorrectly cast doubt on Mr. Fillmore's capacity as a reporter for any Web Site.--- This is ridiculous because we all know Larry routinely writes for both blogs.--- The attorney goes on to give the impression Lisbon should use the imposition of costs as a way of controlling  requests and thus the amount of information that is released to the public. (is this even legal?) 

When reading Mr. Terriault's Opinion please keep in mind:

  • Mr. Terriault has on occasion been criticized by the blogs and may not be impartial.
  • Mr. Terriault was factually incorrect about Larry not being a reporter for the blogs. What else is he wrong about?
  • With all the negative language in his opinion he doesn't definitively say Larry shouldn't be given this waiver.
  • None of these FOAA requests would be necessary if government was transparent.  

In closing let me address Mr. Terriault's assessment of the blogs as not significantly contributing to public understanding.

                                  The Facts:
When you combine LisbonMaine.Net's  stats and those of The Lisbon Reporter we have well over 1,000,000 million total page views and over 9 blog years of service to Lisbon.

LisbonMaine.net has had up to 2700 page views a day and is routinely viewed by over 500 people a day.  

When you ask  people in town where they get local government information many will tell you "from the blogs"  Lisbon Council has even made reference to the blogs and their effectiveness.

If you want us to keep supplying you with local government news we need you to call your Councilors and tell them Larry should have his waiver.  

Government information should be available to all. It shouldn't be available to the rich only.

Joe Hill

1 comment:

  1. It is rare to get any information abut the Town of Lisbon in the newspapers. And most anything in the in the Lewiston Sun Journal is only half fact, and not the complete story.

    Without The Lisbon Reporter and LisbonMaine.Net, Lisbon residents would not have a clue as to what is going on in town!
    The Lisbon Reporter and LisbonMaine.Net, keep up the great work of keeping us informed.