Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making Connecticut bright and shiny: Our grading scale

The Sunshine Grading Scale is the grading system Journal Register Company Connecticut journalists use to grade public officials, organizations and governmental bodies and their support of transparent government within the state. Access to public records – which includes promptness, accuracy, format and cost – is the main driver of the Sunshine Grading Scale.

The more “sunshines” an agency receives, the more likely they are to treat Freedom of Information and public records laws with care, and vice-versa.

*Opera singer clause – If the official or agency will benefit heavily from turning over the records, they don’t deserve the extra recognition. If, however, the records might make them look bad and they follow specific guidelines, they get an added sunshine bonus.

How it works:
One Sunshine – A public official or agency has numerous issues, excuses, complaints or refusals to public records, as outlined in the Connecticut General Statutes; lacks in prompt delivery of requests or access. It can indicate outrageous costs for public records. The only grade worse is the dreaded Rainy Cloud.

Two Sunshines – The official or agency might comply, but be hesitant, or provide incorrect records. Associated costs could be significantly or unreasonably high for the costly print-outs. This grade is equivalent to a D+ or C- in finger painting.

Three Sunshines – Congratulations! You’re average! This indicates turning over records correctly, at little to no cost, in a timely fashion, as outlined in the Connecticut General Statutes. The requested records have to be picked up in person, but face no reluctance by staff in handing them over. Unfortunately, mediocrity in transparency says a lot about this public outlet.

Four Sunshines –This level on the Sunshine Grading Scale means the public official or agency turned over the records in a prompt manner (before the four-day mark), OR did it within a reasonable timeframe and did it electronically. If you’re e-mailing or zip-filing records to us, you deserve the recognition.

Five Sunshines – The pinnacle of open government in Connecticut. Not only is the public official or agency transparent, but even albino bunnies would be jealous with how much Sunshine you can tolerate. The records were turned over within a very prompt manner, electronically, at no cost or complaint. You’re willing to hand almost everything – besides your social security number and PIN – to a journalist or taxpayer and do it with a smile. You’re a ray of sunshine in generally cloudy, rainy New England.


Anonymous Dan Greenlaw said...

There has been a vast improvement in providing public records and making them more assessible especially online. The numbers of towns that have property records online keeps growing. It used to be the only towns that had those records online were the ones that paid their revaluation companies to maintain them. Now several towns keep their own online database, or link that information to their GIS system. Land records are also starting to make their way online, although most are via private fee companies. I think these are tremendous improvements over the old system of relying on the hours of operation of the town assessor's office and town clerk's office. Especialy with the limited hours of some of our smaller communities. We have started a freemweb service linking to all of the towns and their public records and I am very pleased to see how much this information has grown.

July 30, 2012 at 11:05 AM 

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