Yesterday, in a comment on this blog, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) criticized me for "clucking" about the chicken law instead of reporting on a very tentative and preliminary discussion in the Legal Committee about creating a nuisance abatement law that would hold property owners responsible for problems created by tenants in their buildings. The kinds of problems mentioned were illegal firearms, drugs, domestic violence, child abuse, and howling dogs. Tom Casey has a story about that discussion in today's Register-Star: "City's Legal Committee discusses landlords, housing."
The third issue taken up at Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting was Mayor William Hallenbeck's request that the mayor's office become the "sole records access officer" for FOIL requests. His stated goal in making the request was to ensure that FOIL requests are responded to in a timely way. As it works now, FOIL requests are often made to individual department heads, as well as to the city clerk. Hallenbeck wants all FOIL requests to be directed to his office and all material collected by departments gathered there and sent out from there.
Friedman expressed concern that such centralizing would create a bottleneck. He also observed that, as it works now, "it would take three people in collusion to keep me from getting the information" and opined that "multiple avenues to get information is better than it all going through one way."
City attorney Cheryl Roberts reminded Friedman that there are "things that have to be redacted" from information provided in a FOIL request and reiterated that the mayor's request was "not an attempt to withhold information."
The committee moved to forward to the Common Council for consideration a resolution making the mayor's office the sole records access officer.