Government Spending

Serve the Servants, Especially When They Have Server Issues


Here's a creative twist on Washington Monument Syndrome–California citizens are now encountering "state and local government officials [who are] increasingly…blaming budget cuts and furloughs when they withhold or delay the release of information requested under the state Public Records Act." Some examples, care of the Sacramento Bee:

That's gonna cost ya!

• In The Bee's investigation of deadly lapses at Sacramento County Child Protective Services, reporters discovered scores of agency employees with criminal records, including a registered sex offender. They requested e-mails for a few administrators to learn whether they knew about that individual's conviction. The county demanded $7,049 – 53 hours at $133 per hour – to produce the e-mails. The Bee declined to pay, the e-mails never were released and the public never learned whether administrators had a clue.

• To find out if Sacramento County unduly spared managers in last year's massive layoffs, a Bee reporter requested a list of employees by category over the last few years. The county did the work, for which it billed $1,500, for "data compilation, extraction and programming." Because The Bee would not pay, the list never was released and readers did not learn whether managers received special treatment.

•, a nonprofit news Web site, asked the San Diego County District Attorney's Office for data on enhancements in criminal sentencing. Enhancement charges, such as "great bodily harm" or gang activity, often are applied in controversial ways to increase penalties. Some counties routinely post such information online. The reporter encountered a novel fee demand: $1,100 for "server time" – time the agency's computer was tied up processing data for his request, a percentage of the cost of the computers, software, electricity, and employee benefits for programmers. That request remains in stalemate. […]

California State University, Sacramento's fee policies have created seemingly irrational bureaucratic delays. For example, the university recently required a Bee reporter to send a check for $1.80 before it would release a nine-page document. The process actually cost the university money, because the fee was lower than the cost of processing the payment.

Whole thing here; link via Jim Romenesko's Twitter feed. Reason on California here.

NEXT: NPR on the "House of Death"

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  1. Good job, Mr. Welch. You almost hit BALKO on my Rage-O-Meter with this story.

  2. If someone could go ahead and sort of confiscate that red stapler…that would be greeeaaat.

    1. Hi, Peter. What’s happening? We need to talk about your TPS reports.

  3. Can you believe this shit?

    For more than a dozen years, researchers have been fertilizing small patches of the world’s oceans with iron to see if they could make the floating plants called phytoplankton flourish into massive blooms that would absorb carbon dioxide, the worst planet-warming greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

    Read more:…..z0iLy7JXAM

    1. [FTFA] So messing with nature on a large scale can have unintended consequences. Who knew?!?!

      Let’s see: clear and present harm vs. unsupported, theoretical, politicized junk science called AGW…tough choice. Carbon sequestration is as much bunk as AGW itself.

  4. This actually makes prettty good sense to me when you think about it.


  5. FOI requests are a scourge on government and this is just the way to stop it!

  6. I propose a possible solution to this problem:

    Pass a statewide initiative amending the state constitution to prohibit the state and local governments from charging for the fulfillment of FOIA requests.

    Of course, this would make it possible to assault state and local governments with mass FOIA requests that would be similar to DOS attacks on computer networks, but that’s a feature, not a bug. If every employee added and given an email account and a desk would potentially create the danger of $X in FOIA requests arising from that employee’s activities, the state and local governments might be incented to keep head count down. Also, if the record-keeping associated with trivial regulations could lead to $X in FOIA requests, the state and local governments would be incented to keep the total page count of regulations down.

    This principle would apply to virtually every area of government. Legislative staffs, committee meetings, the # of days the legislature is open, the number of meaningless “advisory boards”, etc.

    I think we should examine this possibility further.

    1. Sadly, in the twisted logic of government, they would just feel incented to add employees to keep up with the additional requests. It’s not their money they’re wasting, after all.

      1. And as they add more employees to handle the requests, the new employees generate even more requests, which calls for hiring more sex offenders, which increases the #of requests, which increases the #of employees, which increases the #of requests…..

        Dear God, they’ve discovered some sort of perpetual motion machine!

    2. So, basically, you are for increased wasteful government spending. Interesting position to take.

      1. Not really.

        I am for setting up a Kafkaesque scenario where the size of the bureaucracy can be used as a club to beat the bureaucracy.

        Anything that increases the net amount of suffering one can inflict on the bureaucracy has the potential for great benefit.

        Think of it as the equivalent of employing the discovery process as a tool of harassment. I would definitely rejoice if circumstances allowed me to use discovery to make, say, Obama’s life a living hell. That would not necessarily mean that I support the increased litigiousness of our society. In fact, it would be a strong signifier of the opposite.

        If the state’s position is that government has grown so large that it is now prohibitively expensive to tell citizens and voters about its operations, that cries out for brutalization using any tool at hand.

    3. That amendment will need to include personal liability and possible criminal sanctions for failure to timely fulfill a FOIA request.

      I like it as a way of creating a feedback loop distributing the burden of government back onto the organs of government.

      1. Why aren’t there already criminal sanctions for not fulfilling FOIA requests? The Act is pretty meaningless if there are no consequences to noncompliance.

    4. So, basically, you are for increased wasteful government spending.

      But you repeat yourself.

    5. The problem is that it’s not actually difficult to comply with these requests, so mass FOIA requests wouldn’t really bog the system down. They just want you to think it will.

      1. Actually, the email request from the article could be costly to comply with. In order to provide emails related to a topic, they would first have to have an infrastructure that would allow easy searching of archived emails – products such as Symantec’s Vault are designed for this and are quite expensive. Assuming that they have such a product in place, they would still need to search for the emails using appropriate keywords and then manually go through them to find only the appropriate emails.

        Depending on the state of their infrastructure, it could well require a senior network engineer manually creating scripts to dump the mailboxes in question and manually searching them.

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    freeviewdocumentaries com

    1. do they have any documentaries on how to embed clickable links in comments?

      1. its just like a normal html link.

        you put your [a href=””] and a [/a] around the text you want as your link. Except instead of “[” and “]” you use the sideways carrots like in normal html.

        “Links” Section in the html 4.01 specification.

        1. Sideways carrots? Are those grown hydroponically?

          1. If you care about your ASCII yields they are.

      2. also, he left out the period in the address, so you can’t even cutnpaste it easily. Talk about a real shitty plug.

        Lrn2MarketingSkillzPlz, KK ThxBai.

  8. And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…

  9. And yes, I won’t be leaving a tip, ’cause I could… I could shut this whole resort down. Sir? I’ll take my traveler’s checks to a competing resort. I could write a letter to your board of tourism and I could have this place condemned. I could put… I could put… strychnine in the guacamole. There was salt on the glass, BIG grains of salt.

  10. I was told that I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven, I told Bill that if Sandra is going to listen to her headphones while she’s filing then I should be able to listen to the radio while I’m collating so I don’t see why I should have to turn down the radio because I enjoy listening at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven.

  11. Mr. Lumbergh told me to talk to payroll and then payroll told me to talk to Mr. Lumbergh and I still haven’t received my paycheck and he took my stapler and he never brought it back and then they moved my desk to storage room B and there was garbage on it…

  12. The ratio of people to cake is too big.

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