Randy Evans

State Fair meeting was affront to open government

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He can be reached at IowaFOICouncil@gmail.com. -promoted by Laura Belin

The decision last week to cancel the Iowa State Fair was a reminder of the seriousness of coronavirus and the consequences of many people’s anxiety about returning to activities that normally are an important part of Iowa life.

But the State Fair’s decision also illuminated an embarrassing disconnect from the norms of government transparency and accountability in our state.

I have attended government meetings for 50 years — from small-town city councils and school boards, to state boards and commissions. I have never seen or heard about a more outrageous abuse of the principle of open government than the State Fair Board exhibited last week.

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COVID-19 crisis underscores how vital information is

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. -promoted by Laura Belin

We have all become acutely aware in the past few weeks why masks and face shields, respirators and ventilators are so important for hospital workers and their patients.

The supply is not keeping up with the need, and that could have dire consequences for the doctors, nurses, and patients.

Likewise, the novel coronavirus crisis has underscored the importance of another valuable commodity — access to accurate, authoritative information.

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A friendship built around ideas, not fishing

Randy Evans remembers former U.S. Representative Berkley Bedell, who “never stopped trying to make a difference in our world.” -promoted by Laura Belin

Berkley Bedell and I were both retired when our friendship really blossomed.

He made a fortune in fishing tackle. I never had the patience to fish.

Instead, we bonded over ideas — ideas about politics and issues facing the world and the United States and ways we thought today’s thorny problems should be addressed by our leaders.

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University of Iowa utility secrecy: A blow to public accountability

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He can be reached at IowaFOICouncil@gmail.com. -promoted by Laura Belin

The Iowa Board of Regents is being asked this week to consider a complex proposal to turn the operation of the University of Iowa’s utility system over to an unnamed a business that will be paid to operate it for the next 50 years.

The business will make a cash payment of undisclosed size to the university up front in return for the privilege of managing the coal-burning power plant, water treatment plant and the infrastructure for distributing electricity, steam and water across the sprawling campus and hospital complex. In return, the business is guaranteed a 50-year stream of revenue from its one customer.

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Apparently, legal deadlines don’t apply to everyone

Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and previously was editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of the Des Moines Register. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Some of the most stressful memories I have of my school days involve the words, “We’re going to have a pop quiz today.”

Don’t panic, but there’s a pop quiz today. Here goes:

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Don’t hide government officials from the public

Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy Evans reflects on the flawed draft advisory opinion the Iowa Public Information Board’s staff proposed in response to my inquiry. -promoted by desmoinesdem

I sometimes think government officials overlook the important role the public plays in our system of government.

That was my takeaway last week from the monthly meeting of the Iowa Public Information Board.

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