Frustrated by Government? FOIA Is Your Friend

I-66by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to toll solo drivers on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway seeks to address a complex transportation problem with no easy answers. Among the groups that have taken an interest in the project is the McLean Citizens Association (MCA), which is concerned that the tolls might divert commuters from I-66 onto McLean neighborhood streets.

“As you are aware, so-called ‘cut-through’ traffic on local McLean streets is already significant in volume and is a major concern of the community,” wrote James A. Robertson and James S. Phelps, co-chairs of MCA’s transportation committee, in a letter to Helen Cuervo, administrator of VDOT’s Northern Virginia district.

The committee had not taken a position on the controversial toll proposal but wanted to better understand the logic behind it. Accordingly, Robertson and Phelps asked for copies of any VDOT or VDOT-sponsored studies of predicted driver reactions to tolls, dynamic tolling and toll increases, including analyses of driver sensitivity to price changes. A seemingly simple request.

About three months later, Cuervo wrote back, providing a brief description of the toll proposal and the justification for it. She concluded:

VDOT has studied potential impacts on a number of surrounding local roads and does not anticipate negative traffic impacts on traffic flow as a result of the I-66 Inside the Beltway Project. Our team currently is in the process of updating our traffic analysis to include the eastbound widening plans, and plan to release this additional study to the public in fall 2016. As we move forward with this effort, public input will continue to be a top priority. We look forward to continuing to work with you in order to keep your community informed.

That was it. No studies. No documentation to back up the statement that VDOT anticipated no negative impact on local roads. I love the part about working with the MCA to “keeping your community informed.”

My correspondent, known to readers of the blog as TMT (short for Too Many Taxes) was not pleased. “Why won’t VDOT release the price elasticity information or state it didn’t use any?  This is another reason ordinary people have trouble trusting government and why we see phenomena like Sanders and Trump.”

TMT, I sympathize. Welcome to the world that journalists deal with every day — getting non-responsive answers to requests for information. But I have a much better solution than voting for Trump or Sanders. File a Freedom of Information Act request! There are many advantages to going the FOIA route: (1) VDOT cannot dodge, duck or weave; it must respond; (2) VDOT cannot wait three months to get back to you; it must comply within 30 days (as I recall); and (3) you don’t have to explain why you want the information; just ask for it.

FOIA isn’t just for journalists. Citizens can use it, too. Check out The Document Project in which citizens made aggressive use of FOIA to lay bare the cronyism in Virginia Beach real estate development. Indeed, not only can you obtain formal reports or studies, a FOIA report can scoop up any email discussion relating to traffic diversion onto local streets. Go for it!

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31 responses to “Frustrated by Government? FOIA Is Your Friend

  1. FOIA is a “liberal” idea right? I say that because the GOP-heavy Virginia General Assembly has no problem undermining FOIA one law at a time.

    Not only year-by-year systematically exempting Va State and local agencies – but allowing them to effectively evade with “gotcha” clauses, – and then when they actually do have to provide – charging for it in a punitive way to discourage future FOIAs.

    Having said that – the motivation behind tying to question VDOT on tolling is not really an effort to get to a better solution – it’s just an outright challenge to the concept of tolling – looking for ways to kill it all together.

    so the motivations behind the FOIA are not exactly pure – and VDOT will use whatever means it can to not allow the goal of the effort- to succeed.

    game, set , match – move on to the next toll fracas.

    VDOT is going to congestion toll the commuting corridors to the urban areas. They’re not going to tear down developed property to widen the corridors so more commuters can drive SOLO.

    These groups may well prevail on the FOIA on the details – but it won’t change the outcome unless they can convince the Va GA to prohibit VDOT from further tolling.

    In terms of “cut-through” traffic – it’s not just tolls – it’s Apps like Waze –

    read this: ” Traffic-weary homeowners and Waze are at war, again. Guess who’s winning?”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/traffic-weary-homeowners-and-waze-are-at-war-again-guess-whos-winning/2016/06/05/c466df46-299d-11e6-b989-4e5479715b54_story.html

    let me know when FOIA stops the cut-throughs.

    If folks are smart – they’ll see VDOT as a potential ally on the cut-throughs.

    that’s where you get things like traffic-calming and other facilities that discourage cut-throughs.

  2. Ah if only it were so simple. The time requirements are not adhered to and recently the costs assigned to obtain the material have been astronomical – aimed at keeping people from getting access. Talk with the folks concerned about the pipeline about their experiences using FOIA to understand what interactions their local government had with the MVP pipeline folks.

    This is another tool that should be useful but is broken in Virginia.

  3. Larry,

    As usual, your comment is one sided. See recent contretemps involving Cheryl Mills and Foia requests to the State Department and Judicial Watch. It is in the nature of government to try to hide what it does, whichever party is in power. As has been observed here, it mostly succeeds. That is one of the major reasons why government is to be feared, not encouraged. It again goes further back to the very nature of government: it is one of the very few true monopolies, and monopolies always behave badly (well ok, the old Ma Bell probably did as well as any monopoly in customer service, but do you remember the coast to coast long distance rates: $2.00 for the first three minutes. Do you remember the amount of commerce that occurred when those rates lowered with the advent of MCI) Yet over and over, the populace fails to understand this basic concept.

    • crazy – do you have cable tv guy or a cell phone? is that govt?

      can you use FOIA to get at that “monopoly”?

      Judicial Watch? can you say witchhunt?

  4. So, NoVa Republicans first don’t want to bail out Metro, then they don’t want congestion tolling and finally they don’t (ever) want to raise taxes. Oh, I almost forgot – they’re absolutely fine with rivers of NoVa money going out-of-region to help support the proud, self-sufficient Tea Party types they represent in rural Virginia. It’s only a handout if it goes to a so-called urban welfare mother. Handing out money to unemployed rural residents who don’t have the gumption to move a hundred miles to get a job is not a handout! It’s … um … ah … saving the family farm?

    • Preach it! There is not one single reason for anyone in the Urban Crescent to vote Republican at the state level. While I hate the phrase, it really is against a NoVa resident’s (or Richmond or Hampton Roads) to ever vote GOP when they simply redistribute the wealth to rural Virginia. Marx lovingly smiles at the Virginia GOP’s redistribution of wealth from those with abilities (Urban Crescent) to those with needs (Southside/Southwest).

      • The 2004 “tax reform” bill passed the House on April 28, 2004, by a vote of 52-45. The plurality of the “yes” votes were from Democrats. That bill increased tax payments by Fairfax County residents and businesses by $107 (Source: Senate Finance Committee), while increasing state funding to Fairfax County Public Schools by a little more than $7 M (Source: FCPS), and enabling 49 local jurisdictions to cut local tax support for their public schools for the next year (Source: BR). And who knows how big the giveaway is more than a decade later.

        Tell me again how the Democrats had NoVA’s best interests at heart? It seems to me that Albo, Callahan, Frederick, Hugo, Lingamfelter, Marshall, and McQuigg (all R) were the ones voting to protect NoVA interests (I really don’t care about Richmond or Hampton Roads), rather than the NoVA Democrats, e.g, Amundson, Brink, Petersen, Plum, Scott, Shannon, Sickles. RINOs Dillard and May did vote with Mark Warner.

        Even Senator Barbara Favola (D) agreed that NoVA got screwed by the Warner tax and spending reform bills of 2004 since there was no maintenance of effort requirement for local taxes.

        The facts show that NoVA Democrats voted to give more NoVA money to RoVA in the last big, non-transportation-related tax/spending bill. There were enough Democrats in Fairfax County to have killed Warner’s legislation. But they didn’t; and Fairfax County residents were screwed. Tell me again why I should vote for Democrats.

        • Virginia’s public school expenditures are a product of the Local Composite Index. I imagine your figures are largely based on the LCI.

          For years, NoVa delegates, including Republicans, have attempted to make the LCI more equitable for the Urban Crescent and its taxpayers. And the Virginia General Assembly’s Republican caucuses have laughed and torpedoed these efforts.

          For example see Delegate Albo’s (R-Fairfax) HB468 in 2012. Didn’t even make it out of subcommittee in the GOP House.

          So long as the GOP controls the House of Delegates, you can be sure the Marxist redistribution will continue. They will NEVER allow the LCI formula to be altered if it stopped rural Virginia’s gravy train.

          • The LCI is pretty open and transparent – it’s readily available and local school systems that benefit from the LCI still have to provide their share of the SOQ funding.

            so the argument is that the LCI “allows” other counties to not have to fund their schools because the state picks up the SOQ costs and the money to do that comes from richer counties.

            okay – so that’s an argument against the LCI – rather than the other counties that benefit – as they have no way to game it – it is what it is as defined by it – statewide.

            and the reality is that most school districts except for the poorest add tens of millions of dollars of additional discretionary money that is not regulated as to what it is spent on. It’s up to the local counties and school boards what they spend it on.

            I’m not a defender of the LCI per se but if you want RoVa kids to get a quality education – this is one of the parts – and people forget the Constitution of Virginia is what mandates the LCI… it requires equivalent funding for all kids regardless of where they live.

          • TooManyTaxes

            Cville – according to the Virginia Municipal League, the LCI was first established in the 1970s. Both houses of the General Assembly were controlled by the Democratic Party in the 1970s. How can the Republican Party be responsible for the creation of the LCI?

            And one of the major reasons LCI reform gets no traction is because Prince William County schools do reasonably well under the existing formula. Senators and delegates representing that county vote against changes in the formula. The absence of PWC legislators (both Rs and Ds), when coupled with the votes of more rural area legislators, make it essentially impossible to change the formula. Who told me that? Senator Janet Howell – D – Fairfax County, who has sat on the Senate Finance Committee for many years.

  5. For many public projects, I always want to know – whose idea was this anyways? And what was the rationale? Usually those answers are not forthcoming, but I appreciate McLean’s attempt to get some answers.

    • The McLean Citizens Association has been a particularly well run outfit over the years. We wouldn’t know half of what was going on if not for MCA’s willingness to badger state and local officials into telling the truth.

  6. The reaction of drivers to tolls, most especially dynamic tolls used to maintain a minimum speed of 45 mph, is important. Hence, the price elasticity factor(s) assumed by VDOT is important. Similarly, we don’t know whether I-66 drivers and Beltway Express Lane drivers will use the tolled lanes in the same way. The latter are said to be occasional users more than regular users and also have access to general purpose lanes on the Beltway. There is some feeling, at least among MCA Transportation Committee members, I-66 drivers may be more regular users and they have no access to general purpose lanes on I-66 (inside the Beltway). Their alternative is other streets in Fairfax County and Arlington.

    VDOT’s refusal to provide demand elasticity information is secret government and plain wrong.

    • Why should this refusal to open the books that show the truth be such a mystery? The reasons for such refusal are plainly obvious.

    • is the issue having no free lanes – all toll – inside the beltway?

      and the belief is that people will use surface streets instead?

      Call me a skeptic. People might do that for a couple of days or one or two hard core cases or folks with specific routes but we always hear this is what will happen then when the tolls are put on – it evaporates because people value their time as much or more that they value money and those that pick longer times – and traffic aggravation over tolls – are few in number.

      There’s a cultural aversion to tolls in places where tolls have not been in place already – but after awhile – that goes away. They’ve had tolls in the Northeast for decades – and virtually everyone accepts them and with the advent of electronic tolling – and the removal of toll booths – even easier.

      People are not dealing with the realities. The Washington area is going to continue to grow. You cannot stop it. And VDOT is not going to condemn developed properties and tear them down for new “free” lanes.

      it’s just not going to happen but we still have folks following strategies to essentially undermine the imposition of tolls.

      you have a choice. either accept more and more congestion on exiting free lanes or accept the tolls that will cause people to consider the value of a trip and act accordingly.

      the “anti” folks see this as some sort of a battle between the “people” and unresponsive govt. But the reality is it’s not that at all. People – want someone to blame for the congestion .. they want someone to either stop it or fix it – and if govt can’t or won’t do it – it’s “unresponsive”.

      Mind you – these are intelligent folks in other areas of thought… but when it comes to roads – common sense flees in droves.

      This is not a unique deal to the DC area. It’s the default condition in virtually ever urbanized area on the planet earth – it’s just that in the DC area we got “smart” folks who “know” how to “hold govt accountable”.

      I’m sorry – if you really want to hold govt accountable – do it with something that goes beyond the idea that the govt is the one causing congestion.

  7. re: elasticity –

    all you’re going to get is folks going out on the web and getting their favorite elasticity theory and the accuse VDOT of a conspiracy. Mark my words.

    the cut through traffic problem is not caused by tolls – it’s caused by Waze and other navigation apps that people use ALSO to avoid congestion even without tolls. It’s going on right now without tolls – read the WaPo article.

    you’re not going to stop the cut through traffic by question the elasticity theory of congestion tolls – all that is going to get is more opposition-generated controversy about the theory behind congestion tolling. The truth is already in – congestion tolling “works”. Yes there are some different variants of it and it may need to be tweaked for particular locales but the basic theory “works” in practice and the funny thing here is – it’s a conservative think tank “idea” – Heritage championed it.

    In terms of subsidizing RovA – if you want someone in RoVa to move to NoVa to get a job – you have to give those kid a NoVa-competitive education… right?

    OR – you can keep on paying their other entitlements, eh?

    • Good point. I’m surprised this blog hasn’t addressed Waze and other apps like it. IMO, that’s an “emerging issue” in transportation that is almost as big as Uber. It’s amazing how many 20somethings use those apps.

    • VDOT has told the MCA’s Transportation Committee that, once HOV2 is eliminated in favor of HOV3, somewhere around 45-48% of all I-66 Inside the Beltway users will need to make a decision – pay tolls (using VDT’s number $5-6 one way), form a 3-person car pool, or drive on other roads. Tolling should occur first before the HOV change is made.

      With or without congestion-finding apps, the price elasticity of demand on I-66 Inside the Beltway is material. VDOT acknowledges that establishing 3-person car pools is challenging. So a large number of 2-person car pools will need to make a decision – pay the toll or drive on other streets.

      On the Beltway, one can still drive the general purpose lanes without paying a toll. Of course, the traffic is what the traffic is. But on I-66 Inside the Beltway, there are no general purpose lanes. The closest alternative is public streets, some of which are not arterials or highways.

      This is not an argument against tolling. The letter correctly states the MCA has not taken any position on tolling I-66. The issue is the likely behavior of drivers when presented with the choice of tolls or taking other routes. If demand is relatively inelastic, use of other roads may not get worse. If, on the other hand, demand is elastic, neighborhood traffic may get much, much worse.

      In developing its tolling plan, VDOT had to estimate demand. The MCA’s Transportation Committee simply wants to see the assumptions used in estimating demand. As a lawyer, I draw the inference from VDOT’s failure to provide demand elasticity information that demand is more elastic than inelastic. Why shouldn’t the public know this now before the road is tolled?

      • TMT –

        These endless discussions of complexities and theories strikes me as quite irrelevant. These tolls will be a disaster. These tolls acting alone will reek harm on the vast majority of people here (whether residents, workers, or transients ) 4 ways to Sunday, no matter what happens.

        For, however “success” by tolls is truthfully defined it will breed results that ratchet those tolls even higher if only by reason of more “growth” within or without the toll area that will forces its traffic thought a growing but inelastic series of bottleneck places. Places thus unable to absorb those results. But that so will force ever more overflow into ever more neighborhoods nearby and then ever further away.

        This will punish a great and growing majority of current residents and great and growing number of residents living further away and also those who are legitimately trying to pass through “interstate roads” that then are increasingly shut down by traffic and costs of passage, thus rendered dysfunctional amid a series of stoppered places as the gridlock thresholds within those places continue to be overrun by ever higher floods of traffic coming from ever more places.

        These cumulative results end up punishing most everyone, after driving out of town first the most vulnerable while creating new thresholds of pain annually until only the richest need not flee the regime.

        The Road net in Northern Virginia cannot take these loads. Its residents and workers simply cannot fairly continue to take this punishment for the sins of others now or in the future. It is physically and humanly impossible absent an massive well coordinated change in areas land use and commercial and governmental practices, where that power rests, who wields that power and for what purposes .

        These tolls proposed today, absent such land use changes, will simple give the powerful real estate and commercial interests more time to live off “the fat of the land” at little inconvenience to themselves while continuing to ruin other peoples neighborhoods, livelihoods and futures in Northern Virginia. That reality is “why VDOT’s refusal to provide demand elasticity information is secret government and plain wrong.”

        It’s also why all the promises to fix Northern Virginia’s traffic over the past 40 years have all been broken, and will not been fixed this time, but only made worse, except for the small oligarchy of commercial and professional interests that has been running the place for the past 40 years, more prominently in Fairfax County.

      • Now lets deal with the “elasticity” of different people when confronted with dynamic tolls, why their imposition of elasticity on individual citizens is wretched and horribly unfair. Why it is the reverse of good government, given the harm it imposes to so many people, and the health of our society generally.

        Dynamic Tolls are expressly designed by government officials to impose financial pain on their citizens until a certain portion of them are forced to not only change their behavior but chose between two or more evils, all of which impose lasting harm on those citizens, their families, communities, and society generally. Dynamic tolls thus will by operated by public and private operators to force a certain percentage of citizens (the % determined from time to time by their political masters) to abandon their right to use certain public roads unless they meet certain conditions that their masters decide upon from time to time.

        So in lieu of their former use of public roads, this class of citizen will suffer variety of costs and punishments that change at the whim of their masters while the submissive are forced into one of several ever changing options.

        1. pay rent to park somewhere (if available), and take public transportation that may or may not suit their critical needs to a location that may or may not be easily accessible to their ultimate destination or job, and thus likely will impose substantial and changing costs and inconveniences to the citizen, family and community so afflicted. For example how does a plumber take a bus to daily jobs). And /or:

        2/ be forced off the formerly public roads now tolls onto side-streets with ever more congestion that also wastes the lives of these afflicted citizens, their ability to be gainfully employed, to enjoy their homes and families.

        3/ be forced to give up their preferred employment for lack of their ability to use public roads or indeed give up employment altogether.

        This is not fantasy. These are real people harmed. What makes it far worse is that these punishments are intentionally inflicted on certain groups of citizens by their government and by a cabal of their fellow citizens, the oligarchs who for their private benefit feast on the pain of their fellow citizens, given that the oligarchs can easily, indeed profitably, pay tolls that enrich their pockets as they control and harming their fellow citizens.

        As to just one of the many groups of people who will be harmed by dynamic tolls and their consequences short and long term, Jim Bacon has just written an important article found at:

        http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2016/06/the-metropolitization-of-virginia.htm

        This article speaks to people living in rural areas and towns of Virginia who can no longer find work where they live. Before they found work there in agriculture and/or manufacturing jobs that have now dried up. These job losses in their communities have too often been driven by poor (and I believe now often abusive) policies inflicted on them by their government. The result is that more and more people living in these rural areas and small towns must commute ever longer distances to find work in major metropolitan areas. There are our policemen, firemen, mechanics, landscapers, nurses, cleaning, construction and odd job people, sales clerks, and low level office workers. These dynamic tolls will ruin these people first. But over time they will find ever more victims as the tolls ratchet ever higher in ever rising gridlock.

        These dynamic tolls will not work in Northern Virginia and their results will be more harmful than a zero sum game. Only a very few will win. Everyone else be very substantially harmed in a myriad of different ways. Families, their health and formation, will harmed for example.

        Plus dynamic tolls will reek positive harm that over time will radiate not only throughout Northern Virginia and spread harm far beyond. Indeed, one way or the other, they will spark revolution, but not the one we hope for.

        • Last two paragraph from above comment as edited for typos:

          “These dynamic tolls will not work in Northern Virginia and their results will be more harmful than a zero sum game. Only a very few will win. Everyone else will be substantially harmed in a myriad of different ways, hurting family health and formation, for example.

          Dynamic tolls also will reek harms that over time will radiate throughout Northern Virginia and then spread harm far beyond. One way or another, this harm will spark revolution, but not the one we hope for.”

  8. No it isn’t. I’ve asked for a good number of FOIA items and they’ve stalled in 20 ways to Sunday. That includes the Va. Dept. of Health Professions, the State Medical Board, the State Budget Office, the Governors’ executive council, the Lt. Gov.’s staff, and the city of Chesapeake.

    I also asked for full disclosure from Sentara about some business practices of theirs (as I think they would be considered blocking care and collusion to keep certain areas under “control”/splitting the market). They told me to talk to the lawyer, who hasn’t said squat.

    The Virginian Pilot, as this Sentara group pays for ads, isn’t going to tell people about it. What does that say? The press is in cohoots with business AND government on hiding stories.

    • “The press is in cahoots with business AND government on hiding stories.”

      Truer words were never said, particularly now with the explosive growth of Crony Capitalism. Here large companies, special interests, and quasi-public institutions (profit and non profit) are increasingly joined at the hip with Federal and State Government.

      Here under these illegitimate cartels, the Crony Capitalists (including media, special interests, private companies) work in tandem with Government officials as each and all conspire one with the other for their own private advantage over everyone else in society. Hence each of the players in the crony game feed off one another at the expense and detriment of every one else in the state, county and/or nation.

      These Grand Cartels and private/public deals and deal makers now thriving in the 21st century modern America require a constant stream of back room deals and deal making all masked by secrecy and opaque politics and news reporting if they are to succeed individually and collectively in ripping off everyone else who is outside the system they have built for their own private advantage. Hence everyone else among the outsiders hear nothing but the endless spin and obfuscation and now, more and more, the blatant outright lying and the lawless behavior that is going on now in so much of our public life in American today by those riding the Gravy Train.

      The growing list of Poster children of this corruption now includes ever more colleges and universities, health care providers, and transportation “specialists” such as those we see in spades in Fairfax County Va, a leader in this growing corruption given its close proximity to our Nation’s Capital.

  9. The MCA can always be counted on to worry about what affects the MC. Their concern for the region as a whole? Not so much.

    I never see cut-through as the devil evil people make it out to be

    • And you are suggesting that a community association should not work on issues related to its community? That makes no sense. The Reston Citizens Association, Great Falls Citizens Association, Providence District Council, Lee District Council, etc., etc., all work on local matters. Is working with one’s neighbors now sinister? Or are only some neighborhoods permitted to work for their benefit?

  10. As the FOIA officer for a public agency, my advise to folks who are having trouble obtaining public records is to figure out who the agency’s FOIA officer is and make the request directly to him/her. Most public employees don’t understand the complexities of FOIA laws, nor should they be expected to. That is why there are FOIA officers. Some additional thoughts: 1) You don’t need to invoke FOIA for it to be a FOIA request. All requests for public records are FOIA requests, whether you cite FOIA or not. 2) The turnaround requirement is 5 working days, and agencies may invoke a 7-day extension if needed (and cite the reason for the extension). 3) FOIA applies to existing public records. It does not require agencies to answer questions, or to produce new records. 4) If you’re having trouble dealing with an agency’s FOIA officer, contact the FOIA Advisory Council, and they will help you. Good people over there. 5) The agency must get your permission to proceed if the request will cost more than $200, and agencies are forbidden from charging more than the actual costs of producing records. However, the actual costs can sometimes be high for broad requests involving hundreds of records, especially if those records must be compiled by management staff with higher salaries. If you think you are being gouged, contact the FOIA Advisory Council first. 6) Yes, there are plenty of exemptions in the code. But instead of complaining about the fact that there are exemptions, take the time to look through them and if you find one that isn’t justified feel free to talk to your legislator about it. Truth is most of the exemptions are probably justified, many having to do with safety and privacy issues that protect citizens. I can’t think of any exemptions that are designed to protect public officials or agencies from scrutiny.

    • I made requests to the FOIA officer and they go to the lawyers. Should tell you a lot about our govt. and their attitude and intentions.
      You can say no records responsive to the request and have NO idea what you’re talking about. I’ve challenged enough of them to prove their wild $$$$ requests to know they didn’t have a leg to stand on. They were just trying to hide it. Its common knowledge the govt. throws up walls to be MORE secretive not less.
      The FOIA Advisory Council has zilch/zero power to do anything. They can recommend but the governor has yet to act on proposals.
      They also add in $$$ for benefits and the like, which is illegal. The cost of the time alone of the person gets inflated. They also use big wigs to do it rather than secretaries to put the $$$$ count up.
      Legislators do NOTHING but ignore and let FOIA items die in committee. I’ve been that route too.

      PS Get the B5 exemption removed. Just try. The govt. will block it like hospitals do mandatory nurse staffing requirements.

      Basically I know all the lies and games perpetrated by the govt. to stymie people.

  11. re: ” 1) You don’t need to invoke FOIA for it to be a FOIA request. All requests for public records are FOIA requests, whether you cite FOIA or not. 2) The turnaround requirement is 5 working days, and agencies may invoke a 7-day extension if needed (and cite the reason for the extension). 3) FOIA applies to existing public records. It does not require agencies to answer questions, or to produce new records. ”

    yup. it’s records – not “what assumptions”.

    folks do not understand that FOIA is not a ” I ask you something and you need to give me an answer” – process.

    if the record exists – then it can be supplied.

    if you do not correctly identify the record – you may not get anything.

    but I’m still hearing different evasive responses including stiff charges for gathering the records.. even when they exist electronically.

    I was under the impression that FOIA only applied to govt agencies not private companies.. am I wrong?

    • They don’t keep records or use B5 or abuse of the $$$$$ amount to charge to block the way.
      The Va. State Govt. has blatantly not answered a FOIA request for a specific file on about 10 people’s computer. It exists. They just refused it. It would take a secretary 10 seconds to find it.
      FOIA does apply to the Feds, the state has more FOIA laws. They’ve not been updated because the Governors want to the keep a committee to say they’re working on things but the Govs have done SQUAT with any recommends in years.
      It doesn’t apply to businesses but if those businesses do things with the govt. you go after the govt. to get them.

  12. how would you know it exists on 10 computers?

    I donj’t know the exact limits of FOIA – perhaps Jason can weigh back in but I suspect you’re not going to get internal data…. only public records.

    and there is a definition to public records.. that’s different from internal data but I don’t know the precise difference.. I just know that some stuff you’ll not get … such as individual personnel records, etc.

  13. just wanted to thank you for promoting FOIA and transparency.

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