Open and transparent government is essential to liberty, and access to public records is a key element of open government. As an advocate for government transparency and accountability, as well as a Kirkland City Council member, I believe that the Council placed the City on the cutting edge of public records access by its recent unanimous adoption of two pieces of legislation.
Ordinance O-4414, “Access to Public Records”, and Resolution R-4987, “Public Records Act Rules,” will govern how Kirkland handles public records requests going forward. They define open processes for establishing the level of resources allocated to public records access within the context of the overall City budget, for public reporting of the performance of city staff on handling records requests, and for how records requests will be managed, tracked and completed using a system of online queues of pending and active requests and logs of completed requests. Together, these processes make the records access service itself more transparent to the public. The logs and queues will be available on the City’s web site by November 1, 2013.
Kirkland has elevated the city service of providing access to public records to “first class” status like other essential city services, requiring that the handling of public records requests be evaluated and funded as part of all future budget deliberations by the City Council. The ordinance and rules create a performance management system for records requests, with goals and performance metrics like every other essential city service.
The ordinance and rules shine a light on how the City is performing on records requests, giving the public and the Council tools to know whether additional resources are necessary to meet public expectations of responsiveness to requests. Just as importantly, they put the public records service in the appropriate context of all of the other essential services that a city provides such as public safety, environmental protection, human services and infrastructure investments. Budget allocations for records requests will be evaluated along with these other critical services so that all city services receive a reasonable allocation of resources based on citizen priorities. As with other essential services, spikes in demand for access to public records will be fulfilled within the constraints of allocated resources and spread over time when necessary to avoid interference with other services.
This approach respects both the right of the people to access their records and their right to receive other essential City services, at a level of performance they expect and can afford. By adopting this ordinance and resolution and following through with the required oversight, the Council fulfills our commitment to the people of Kirkland to use the resources they provide as efficiently and effectively as possible, to provide the services they need and expect, and to merit their trust and confidence.
City of Kirkland