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Users defend strong info access rules

Former Evanston alderman Emily Guthrie says she's pleased with how new Freedom of Information Act rules that went into effect in January worked when she asked for information about the city's library this year.

Former Evanston alderman Emily Guthrie says she's pleased with how new Freedom of Information Act rules that went into effect in January worked when she asked for information about the city's library this year.

Guthrie, a member of the Evanston Public Library Friends group, says she asked for legal documents about the library and received them from the city's legal department within a few days.

"I've filed requests for the past several years. I was surprised to see how fast they responded" this time, Guthrie says.

She used the information she got as background for the group's now successful campaign to raise private donations to keep the city's two branch libraries open for an additional six months.

Many of the information requests the city receives deal with building permits, police reports and court records. But others deal with political decisions by the city.

Charles Sheridan, a local contractor, claims the city has failed to enforce agreements with developers requiring them to hire firms owned by Evanston residents, women and minorities to work on major projects — and he's not happy that some of his FOIA requests have been denied.

"They keep dodging my questions," Sheridan says. But he believes the FOIA rules can be useful in helping to root out corruption in government.

Jane Grover, now alderman of the city's 7th Ward, made freedom of information requests to school officials when she was seeking more information about their policies. "FOIA laws foster open, transparent government," Grover says. "Citizens have a right to know what the government is doing."

Related story

Clerk rues new info access law

Related link

How to file an FOIA request in Evanston

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