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Emanuel Refuses To Release Some Records To Tribune

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Feb 13, 2012 9:40PM

There's no denying that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made great strides to increase transparency in the city government. His office posted online city employees' salaries, the 2011 appropriations spreadsheet, city contracts, an interactive mapping tool, and even a snow plow tracker. While we applaud those moves, they don't earn him a free pass to ignore the Freedom of Information Act when he feels like it.

The Chicago Tribune reported in November that reporters had filed requests with City Hall for documents showing how Emanuel came up with plans involving the rate hikes and has received very little information. Now the Tribune says the mayor's office released some documents, but was still less than forthcoming with the information. Now, months later, the mayor's office has only turned over enough information to raise more questions. The Tribune writes:

The records, many of them heavily censored, offer clues into City Hall's misstatements about a pedestrian safety crisis, the role of a well-connected speed camera lobbyist and how the mayor linked the death of a little girl to his campaign for cameras even though the devices wouldn't have saved her.

The Tribune sat down to interview Emanuel on Feb. 8, and today published the transcript of the entire interview online—which they probably did to cover themselves legally while also demonstrating to Emanuel the definition of "transparency". The Tribune describes the interview as "sometimes contentious, sometimes humorous." For example:

DK: With all due respect, I'm far more interested …
RE: (interrupting) I don't mean … I don't think you have any respect for me so don't worry about it.
DK: Well, I don't know you. Hopefully, after this.
RE: With all due respect (laughing)...
DK: With all due respect, I am far more interested in how you govern than how you say you govern. And so, the emails I want because they are public records not because they show how you govern. Hopefully they will show how you govern.
RE: We don't do fishing expeditions. I'm here …
DK: I do. I do fishing expeditions. That's what I do for a living. As it stands right now on speed cameras and on vehicle stickers and on the water rates — the three issues we have asked for emails on — the Tribune, and by virtue of the Tribune the public, has no way to know how this office reached these decisions, how they germinated, how they grew, how they developed other than from what you say behind a microphone. And we are trying to figure out how that squares with your pledge to make this a whole new day of transparency.

The exchange was similar in tone to Emanuel's terse exchange last summer with NBC5's Mary Ann Ahern. Emanuel knows how to shut down the conversation, but the reporter admirably kept it going.