Apr 10, 2012
Neighborhood new sites report they’re “fighting to get basic information” about candidates in next week’s Local School Council election.
Citing “privacy” concerns, CPS has required Center Square Journal and Austin Talks to file FOIA requests for lists of candidates, candidate statements and contact information, according to reports. In the past that information was routinely released.
On April 4, after weeks of inquiries, CSJ and AustinTalks received lists of candidates’ names and addresses, but no candidate statements and no phone numbers, according to Ellyn Fortino at AustinTalks.
Mike Fourcher of Center Square Journal writes that CPS has “obstructed” efforts to promote LSC elections – and CSJ efforts to report on the election.
“Obtaining a list of candidates for public office is a basic right of the voting public and the press,” Fourcher writes. “It’s necessary for citizens to determine for whom they plan to vote, for the press to report on candidates’ qualifications, and for candidates to know their opponents.
“In elections for any other public office, local governments make candidate lists easily available as a matter of course.”
“This practice of demanding FOIAs for information that should simply be publicly available in the case of the elections is something we’ve never seen before,” Don Moore of Designs for Change told CSJ.
Center Square Journal is holding an informal forum for LSC candidates from nine schools Tuesday, April 10 at 7 p.m. at Dank Haus, 4740 N. Lincoln. Its sister news site, Roscoe View Journal, holds a forum Wednesday, April 11 at 7 p.m. at the Atheneum Theater, 2936 N. Southport.
LSC elections take place on April 18 for elementary and middle schools and April 19 for high schools.
In the Welles Park Bulldog, Patrick Boylan has reported on the failure of Ravenswood schools to follow CPS policies on LSC elections, including public access to candidates’ nominating papers. At McPherson School, Boylan reports he was denied access to nominating papers until he refused to leave without reviewing them.
Earlier this year, CPS for the first time required community groups to FOIA information on the number of people who had filed as candidates. In the past that information has been released regularly and used by community groups to encourage residents to run for LSC positions in areas lacking sufficient candidates.
Last month 27 community and education groups including Designs for Change accused CPS of “failing to lead a successful candidate recruitment campaign.” They demanded the deadline for candidates to file be extended, and CPS did so.
Last week CSJ reported that Lake View and Amundsen high schools don’t have enough parent candidates to fill out their LSCs.