Others are seeing the problem with government information control

Now that a tiny liberal newspaper in Jacksonville has noted the handcuffs on the media it should be apparent to anyone.

Eye was blacklisted after writing several stories that displeased Curry’s lieutenant Brian Hughes.

So far it hasn’t been much different in the administration of Mayor Donna Deegan. Her chief information officer has ignored emails from Eye on Jacksonville.

Independent authorities, City Council and the School Board were different.

Especially bad was the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which has three people called “public relations specialists” who control information. It also has a public records request area that releases public records — when it feels like it.

It takes a long time to get information and, as the local liberal columnist noted, the media is charged for information – legal, but totally unheard of and unnecessary.

In 2021, the police collected $303,619 for public records, but we could not get a breakdown for media vs. general public, lawyers, etc. There have been media accounts of being charged $5,000 for information from public records. (Eye has not been charged for public records by the police to date.)

All too often the police respond with “no records available” to requests for public records.

A month ago we asked for the number of police officers, a simple request. No answer yet.

Five years ago we asked for the average response time to calls. It was marked “completed” but never answered.

We asked recently what justified the request for more police officers. No answer.

Eye talked to Sheriff T.K. Waters about the situation a few months ago at an event and at first we were hopeful that he would institute change.

This clampdown on information and public records has been slow but effective. Reporters are like the frog in a pot of water that goes from cold to boiling.

Today, as the local newspaper columnist wrote, it can be “excruciating” trying to extract information from the police.

A concentrated effort by the media greatly helped change the local form of government more than 50 years ago. A similar effort might re-open the government and help the public learn what it is doing, compared to what its “public information” corps claims in their press releases it is doing.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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