Public records reforms introduced in council

Public records policies can work better for Lakewood. I recently introduced legislation to help achieve that goal, along with my council at-large colleague Tristan Rader.

Our goal is to de-mystify the records request process for the average resident. Members of the public have a right to transparency from their government—but the process for a record request, itself, can and should be more transparent.

If the proposal is adopted, Lakewood will introduce a public records portal on our city’s website, offering a simple resource for making requests, tracking those requests, and getting responses.

You can make a records request in many ways—on the phone, over e-mail, in person, etc.—and that will remain the case. But the online records request portal will create one, official confirmation of requests and responses to them, however those requests are made.

Valuable public record provisions already exist in Ohio law, and our proposal will ensure that Lakewood has a clear commitment and system to comply with these. The city will identify a public record administrator, who will take training along with all elected officials.

The proposed legislation will commit to using redaction of records as narrowly as possible.

Record requests will receive a timely response—and compensation for any undue delays provides a material commitment on this point.

Lakewood has taken ongoing steps for government transparency over the years, often in response to public input: video of meetings, searchable docket PDFs, a council section on the city’s website. Improving public record access remains a priority for many residents, and we should respond.

The proposal which I have introduced along with Councilperson Rader will not be a total solution to every public record concern, by itself. But I believe it will offer real help to residents with questions about their government, and show a commitment to keeping local government’s work accessible and accountable.

Read the full proposal.