When Mayor Nutter was first elected to office in 2007, he promised a “new day in Philadelphia.” Four years later, during his November 2011 re-election address Nutter returned to that promise saying, “I promised that we would do business in a new way — with honesty, ethics, and transparency at our core — a government that citizens could trust, and not be ashamed of.”
When Nutter signed an executive order to establish an Open Data policy in April 2012, he said, “Transparency is a cornerstone of good governance, and it is vital for the City to be open and available to our citizens.”
And in a blog post about open government for the Knight Foundation in March, Nutter went beyond open government in Philadelphia, saying, “To realize our full potential, American cities must support and advance evolved notions of transparency and engagement.” He added that in Philadelphia, “we have designed a structure to facilitate a true, open and transparent government,” and noted the creation of three new positions in the form of a chief innovation officer, chief data officer, and civic technology director. Among the responsibilities of those in the posts, Nutter listed, “exposing data and information to the public.”
But those pledges of openness and transparency have been met with heightened speculation recently, most notably from area journalists. After the deadly building collapse at 22nd and Market, the Nutter administration announced that city staff inspected 300 active demolition sites. But it has not released the list of those sites despite repeated requests to do so, resulting in a visible tension between the administration and reporters.
To find out exactly how transparent the city and its various departments are AxisPhilly submitted Right-to-Know requests pursuant to Pennsylvania’s “Right to Know Law” to 39 different city departments. The requests were primarily sent via e-mail, and two requests were mailed due to no e-mail addresses being provided for the respective open records officers. Here’s what we asked of each department:
- Any and all records pertaining to the number of Right-to-Know requests they’ve received from the inception of Pennsylvania’s “Right to Know Law” in 2008 to date;
- Any and all records pertaining to the number of Right-to-Know requests that they have accepted and denied from the inception of Pennsylvania’s “Right to Know Law” to date, and the reasoning behind accepting or denying said requests;
- Any and all records pertaining to the nature of the Right-to-Know requests that they have received from the inception of Pennsylvania’s “Right to Know Law” to date including but not limited to the information being requested and;
- Any and all records pertaining to the requester(s) including but not limited to whether — requesters were a private individual, private or public corporation, and local or state agency.
Below is the response we received from the City of Philadelphia Law Department on behalf of the 39 city departments, stating it would be taking an additional 30 days to review the requests.