Wednesday, August 12, 2015
A Tale of Two FOIL Requests
Many Schodack residents have been complaining lately that the town board kept "Project Red" - a plan for another big warehouse near a residential neighborhood - a secret among themselves and the developer. Schodack residents seem to be just waking up to the fact that two decades of one-party rule has resulted in secrecy, lack of accountability, high taxes, and mediocre services. Residents didn't find out about the Dollar Tree warehouse project until after last town election, though the all-Republican town board surely knew all about it before three of them faced the voters that year. And the plan for 9&20 traffic calming, supported by most residents, seemed to just disappear without a peep. Whatever happened to that state-funded project to improve Schodack anyway? I was so puzzled that I did a Freedom of Information request at both Schodack Town Hall and the state Department of Transportation to find out. The results were stunning, trust me. But what was more interesting was how long, involved, and expensive it was to get these documents from Schodack, compared to the larger, and one would think less responsive and more bureaucratic, State of New York. Doing a FOIL request at Schodack cost me several hours off from work, a week’s wait, and more than $30 in copying costs. The same request to the state DOT involved a few emails and resulted in emails with PDF attachments of the requested documents. No time off, no copying costs. If the State of New York can fully automate the FOIL process for far more people than in our small town, isn't it well past the time for Schodack to enter the 21st Century and do the same? But the one-party, Republican rulers of Schodack don't want residents to know anything more than their “happy talk” news releases, so they make it time-consuming and expensive for residents who want to know what's really going on. And what is going on is one-party, Republican rule has brought Schodack a record of high taxes and mediocre services.