Gov. Jay Inslee today received an award from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for his work to keep state government open, transparent and accountable.
The Washington Newspaper Publishers Association awarded Inslee the Walter C. Woodward Freedom’s Light Award, which honors recipients for their commitment to freedom of the press.
“Transparency in government doesn’t happen by default,” said Inslee. “It takes a culture of transparency and leaders who are committed to openness, even when the information might not be flattering. It also takes a vibrant news media committed to keeping the public accurately informed.”
“This is the most open administration I’ve ever worked with,” said Rowland Thompson, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers. “The governor is extremely transparent about the realities of governing.”
As governor, Inslee has chosen not to exercise an executive privilege exemption to withhold records from public disclosure.
“I haven’t seen the necessity of using such a privilege,” Inslee said, “and I have no intention of changing course in the remainder of my administration.”
In his remarks at the Association’s convention, Inslee gave examples of several state agencies that have dramatically sped up release of public documents, often in the face of an increasing number of requests. He also said that over the last year, state government has doubled the amount of searchable, downloadable data available to the public. Inslee has made government transparency and accountability a key part of his Results Washington initiative.
Public disclosure requests can result in thousands of documents being gathered, reviewed, scanned and released. Inslee praised several agencies for their efforts to streamline that work.
Public disclosure teams at the state Department of Transportation, Department of Licensing and Department of Financial Institutions, for example, have recently cut their average times to fulfill certain records requests by 50 to 75 percent. (Case studies for each are linked below.)
“You do the hard work of helping explain government,” Inslee told convention attendees. “We fundamentally agree that the public has a right to this information. I want people to see what we do, and our society depends on you to help make that happen.”
Public disclosure improvement case studies:
- The public records team at the headquarters of the Washington State Department of Transportation cut the average time to fulfill a records request in half, from 24 days to 11.
- The Department of Financial Institutions, which handles many large and complex financial records, cut the average time to fulfill a records request from an average of six months to six weeks, a reduction of 75 percent.
- The Department of Licensing cut the average time to fulfill a request for investigative records in half, to just five days.
- Open data: Washington state government has more than doubled the amount of searchable, downloadable data available online in just a year.