Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Bunch of Things

1. Got a scary comment on the Citizen's Map of Local Break-Ins post:

I wanted to note that two nights before the shooting at the tavern my neighbor was robbed at gunpoint walking west on Hill Street, next to Beacon Hill Elementary School. My neighbor had gotten off the bus for the short walk home and was accosted by two men in a premeditated set-up. One of the perpetrators hid in the pota-potty at the construction site on 13th and Hill he jumped out and when my neighbor turned to run another man was behind her who had followed from the bus stop. It is not even summer yet but the crime, drug, and prostitute activity is worse than I have seen in years.

Looks like we have more than the gunman and sexual assailant to worry about. Craig Thompson is setting up a...

2. Community public safety meeting -- Beacon Hill Public Library, Community Room, Sunday, April 27, Sunday, 2-4 p.m. Craig's contacting the SPD and other related groups for a talk about the recent violent crimes around the neighborhood. I've asked him to send me an agenda.

Craig also recently mailed the neighborhood mailing list with information about a...

3. Stay Out of Drug Area Program for Beacon Hill. This would discourage drug trafficking convicts from returning to the area where they were arrested. The map that Craig sent out is hard to read and I've asked him if he knows of a better version. But it looks to me like it's mostly Rainier Valley, and therefore could actually increase the presence of traffickers around Beacon Hill. (I'd need to see the real map to be sure, though.) In any case, I'd guess that most convicts would just ignore these restrictions anyway.

4. A former coworker/classmate forwarded me a Guardian U.K. article profiling another former coworker/classmate, Heather Brooke. The "rather vampy American woman" is now in London, terrorizing Parliament with the Freedom of Information Act skills she honed 15 years ago in Seattle.

Brooke has made a name for herself mastering the laborious art of requesting data under our freedom of information laws (laborious because it can take years; artful because if you don't ask exactly the right question the civil service can wriggle out of an answer).


Unlike most people ferreting through FoI requests, Brooke is not backed by a newspaper or TV company. Nor is she a lobby journalist, permitted to trawl the corridors of parliament for insider information. She's a freelance author, helped only by a few students, who has become one of the country's most influential voices against secrecy in government.

Wow. Go, Heather!

She's written a book to help British citizens learn how to file FOIA requests. I've written to her asking if she recommends any particular American book on this topic. Because I'm sick of writing to local officials and wondering when/if I'll ever get an answer.

For instance, I'm still waiting on follow-up from Terry Wittmann, the MyNeighborhood Map Manager, about why the crime stats data is all screwy. On March 31, he (she?) asked for a few days to review all the issues I mentioned, but I haven't heard anything since. Granted, there's a lot to review, and I'm sure that he'll need to get approval(s) on his reply to me before he can send it. (Especially if, as I suspect, part of the fault lies with the SPD reports and not just the mapping tool.) But I think I'd rather just start filing disclosure requests than writing polite e-mails asking for help, because FOIA requests have deadlines for responses. Or at least supplement my polite e-mails with official public disclosure requests...


Chris said...

This is an excellent subject!

I had a brief summer job with Cowlitz County GIS department about fifteen years ago and learned all about our state's public disclosure laws. I even remember the citation, RCW 42.17. It's since changed to RCW 42.56

Our state's public disclosure commission:

The law:

This section even says the state has to produce a pamphlet explaining the law, but I couldn't find it online:

Maybe you should give the PDC a ring about your requests to the city. Couldn't hurt.

You should definitely request your FBI file from the feds too. I bet they have something on you.

Diana said...

Just wanted to leave a quick comment... I live nowhere near Mid Beacon Hill and have no ties to the area, but I love peeking into the life of a community through your posts. The photos in particular are great!