15 S. Dillwyn Road
Newark, DE 19711
Martin C. Meltzer
Assistant City Solicitor
City of Wilmington Law Department
Louis L. Redding City/County Building
800 N. French Street, 9th Floor
Wilmington, DE 19801
Louis L. Redding City/County Building
800 N. French Street, 9th Floor
Wilmington, DE 19801
Faxed to: 302-571-4565
Dear Assistant City Solicitor Meltzer,
I have received your reply to my recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In the interest of keeping this dialogue clear, I will reproduce your reply in boldface type and offer my responses.
Dear Mr. Grant:
This is the City's formal reply to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Please be advised that all FOIA requests must be submitted on the City of Wilmington's FOIA form which can be found on the City's website.
I was not aware that all FOIA requests must be submitted on the City of Wilmington’s FOIA form, that certainly is not stated on the web page nor in the City Code (at least I could not find it there, I could be wrong). It’s possible that requirement may be included in the Rules of Public Access to Records of the City of Wilmington, but I could not find those rules online, either.
If you could please provide me with a copy of the Rules of Public Access to Records of the City of Wilmington, I will make sure those rules will be followed.
In accordance with your request, I am filing eleven FOIA requests using the City of Wilmington FOIA form.
Furthermore, your request must be more specific. Information about the City of Wilmington's parking tickets for calendar years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 is too broad to act upon. There is information about the City's parking tickets in various departments; i.e. J.P. Court 20, Finance, Delinquent Notices, etc.
I realized after filing on December 21 that request was vague and submitted a more detailed request on December 23.
Again, in accordance with your request, I think you will find the eleven FOIA requests on the City of Wilmington FOIA forms to be more specific.
Additionally, please note that under 29 DEL.C. 10003(a), the City is only required to permit you to inspect and copy public documents during business hours with a reasonable expense involved in the copying of such records that would include retrieval, review and copying.
First, I’m well aware that inspection and copying of public documents should take place during business hours, that’s why I had requested Friday, January 13, and I’m more than willing to schedule any future date to inspect and copy public documents during business hours.
Now, let’s address this issue of the reasonable expenses involved in the copying (including retrieval, review, and copying) of public records.
First, you will find that I had addressed that issue in my original FOIA request, allow me to restate:
In order to save money on paper and ink, we hope to copy the information electronically. Please advise on the best format for such an arrangement (USB thumb drive, writable disc, etc.).
So, here’s the thing.
- I am more than willing to pay reasonable expenses for the time and effort required to obtain the public information I am requesting.
- As we are now well into the second decade of the 21st Century, I would like to obtain as much information electronically as possible (the majority of this information should be easily e-mailed to email@example.com - assuming that the city keeps accurate records of a program responsible for more than $3 Million of the city’s annual revenue stream). Some of my associates have access to scanners and would be happy to scan information rather than having us pay the $.50 per page the city charges.
- I attempt to do most things as efficiently as possible, for example, the web site and videos I have created – WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com – have so far cost me approximately $4.37. I have budgeted $42 from my personal account for the information I am requesting.
- If the city must charge more than $42, please let me know as soon as is practical. Specifically, I would like an itemized breakdown of the charges. I’ve already spoken with some people about the possibility of putting on a series of fundraising events for this purpose – we can have concerts featuring local musicians, radio-thons, and I could go on tour to various high schools and civic organizations to raise the money needed. We could call it the “Free the Public Information Tour” with posters all over town depicting the public information locked away behind bars with members of the city administration and council as prison guards and the Mayor as the prison warden. We can sell T-Shirts and auction off various items used in the Public Service Announcements we’ve been producing. One thing, if I do end up setting up fundraisers, speaking at schools and civic associations, and doing media interviews about this fundraising effort, I believe everyone will have the same question: Why is the city insisting on charging so much for public information? I would like my answer to be as accurate as possible. So please let me know which answer I should offer:
A. The city of Wilmington is engaging in a common tactic to discourage citizens from accessing public information
B. The city of Wilmington does not keep even the most rudimentary records or statistics about this $3 Million a year revenue program, so many hours must be spent now gathering that information
C. For the same reason the city of Wilmington engaged in the enhanced parking ticket program to begin with, to raise revenue
D. All of the above
While I am fully aware that Governor Markell’s Executive Order No. 31 does not apply to the city of Wilmington, I believe the city should take a good look at this order and seriously consider implementing similar policies, here’s a synopsis:
Executive Order No. 31 will:
§ Reduce copying costs. Under existing FOIA policies, state agencies may charge copying fees ranging from $0.10 to $0.50 per page for standard black-and-white copies. Under the new policy, fees for such copies will be $0.10 per page, with the first 20 pages free. Thus, requesting parties from many agencies may save up to 60-80% over what they would have paid under existing agency policies.
§ Adopt a “No Wrong Door” policy. If a Requesting Party initiates a FOIA request that would more appropriately be directed to another agency, the agency must promptly forward the request to the FOIA coordinator at the appropriate agency.
§ Make it easier to request public records. The policy allows individuals to initiate FOIA requests in person; by mail, fax, or email; or via the form required by SB 87. Existing agency policies permit individuals to initiate requests in some of the above ways, but not all.
§ Provide a point of contact in each executive branch agency. Each executive branch agency must designate a “FOIA Coordinator” to serve as the point of contact for FOIA requests, and to coordinate the agency’s responses. The FOIA Coordinator, who must be identified on the Agency’s website, is required to make every reasonable effort to assist parties requesting public records under FOIA. Click here for list of FOIA Coordinators.
Executive branch agencies must develop a portal for receiving FOIA requests through the internet, if they don’t already have one, by December 1, 2011 and adopt new FOIA policies no later than February 1, 2012.
Now, back to your response:
Upon submitting the City's standard form with your specific request, I will contact you in order that you may set up an appointment at the appropriate department or departments for your inspection and/or copying.
Again, I want to make this as easy as possible for all of us, so I’m going to offer the following decision to the city of Wilmington for each FOIA request filed today:
- The city of Wilmington can provide the information electronically via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or
- The city of Wilmington can mail the information to me at 15 S. Dillwyn Road, Newark, DE 19711 (keeping in mind the above information concerning costs), and/or
- The city of Wilmington can allow my associates and me to inspect and copy the public records in the appropriate department or departments.
Please feel free to contact me if any further information is required.
One last thing that I hope the city will find useful.
I want the city of Wilmington to understand why I am filing these requests.
I believe the city of Wilmington has the potential to become a truly stellar city, I have been inspired by the entrepreneurs, artists, students, and residents who choose to live, work, and visit the city of Wilmington. I believe aggressive and illegitimate parking tickets present an unnecessary obstacle to the city’s growth. I believe we, as a community, can create a fair and equitable system. I believe that if we, as a community, cannot resolve these issues, then we have no hope to address the more complex issues facing us.
With that in mind, I wholeheartedly desire the cooperation of the government of the city of Wilmington.
I thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
With Resolve and Sincerity,
cc: John R. Sheridan, City Solicitor
Brenda James-Roberts, Senior Fist Assistant City Solicitor
John R. Rago, Director of Communications
Lawrence Lewis, Delaware State Solicitor, Department of Justice
Readers of www.WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com