Update: The OPB show "Think Out Loud" is doing a show with Attorney General John Kroger and UO Economics Professor Bill Harbaugh (of OpenUpOregon) at 9 AM Monday. It should be interesting.

This is - potentially - a very significant step towards the reform of Oregon's public records process. Stories in Oregonian, RG, Jack Bog, LoveSalem, Oregonian Editorial. Here is the press release:

December 2, 2009

Initiative seeks to improve Oregon's open government laws
Attorney General John Kroger today announced a broad plan to improve government transparency in Oregon. "A democracy cannot properly function without strong open government laws," said Attorney General Kroger. "We've implemented some immediate reforms that will improve transparency in state government. But I'm also committed to far greater changes."

Immediate changes include:
Putting the 2008 Attorney General's Manual on Public Records and Public Meetings online. Until now, the manual has been exclusively available in a hard copy at a cost of $25. Free online access will significantly increase its usefulness.
The Oregon Department of Justice web site now includes a Citizen's Guide to Public Records and Public Meetings. The guide is designed for citizens who need a quick and easy understanding of Oregon's open government laws.
A new online Public Records Request Form is also now available. Previously, public records request forms needed to be printed out and mailed or faxed. The form is designed for requesting records from the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Kroger also has created the Government Transparency Counsel, a new position in the Department of Justice designed to ensure that state government properly complies with state transparency laws.

The next step is a systematic review of Oregon's open government laws to identify weak points and suggest improvements for the 2011 Legislature. This effort requires input from the public, the media and government officials. To that end, Attorney General Kroger will conduct meetings around the state that will be co-sponsored by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers' Association.
The online PR manual appears to be the direct consequence of pressure from this website and from Carl Malamud at Public Resource - creative commons license and all. The "Government Transparency Counsel (Michael Kron) has a great title and we hope will have authority to ride herd on the state agencies.

We are a little worried about the hearings. We started this website in part to encourage the DOJ to use the authority they have under current law to prevent agencies from using unreasonable delays, excessive redactions, and unreasonable fees to prevent access to public records. They have made progress on the delays, but have not done much - that I can see - on the other topics. I am cautiously optimistic that Michael Kron will make this a priority - and I intend to find out soon!