Friday, March 16, 2012


December 27, 2006 must have been one of the brightest days in the life of the then state Representative Scott Oelslager (Stark County Republican, the 51st House District).

On that date, Republican Governor Robert Taft signed into law a bill (House Bill 9) sponsored by Stark Countian Scott Oelslager (Judiciary Committee chairman at the time) that was the harbinger of floods of democratic sunshine flowing into the political/governmental life of Ohioans.

With the help of the then Speaker of the Ohio House Jon Husted (now Ohio secretary of state), Oelslager nursed the bill into law.

Because Oelslager took the lead (going back to 1992 to what the SCPR believes was his first public records bill [SB 78] which found its way into law), Stark Countians, indeed, all Ohioans have the opportunity to be better informed about the processes of our democratic republic.

House Bill 9 is a revision and updating of Oelslager's original work of 1999.

Moreover, it does appear from a search of Oelslager's work on open public records that his work actually goes back to 1993 (he was appointed to a state senate seat in 1985).  An article in the Dayton Daily News (Access must improve, lawmakers say, Joanne Huist Smith, June 15, 2004) documents such, to wit:
Oelslager, an advocate for open government, worked with Common Cause of Ohio in 1993 to develop legislation expanding the state's open records law. He wanted to make it easier and less costly for Ohio residents to obtain public records.
The bill neared passage but died in the Senate after interest groups and former Gov. George Voinovich's administration expressed concerns about the cost of the changes and the "undue burden" they could place on state agencies.
"All we can do is keep the efforts up," Oelslager said. "A key to our democracy is the public's right to be informed."
Ohio's original open public records bill was enacted into law in 1963.

This week, which is an emphasis week (March 11 - 17th) for the newspapers of America to promote citizen access to government)  Ohio Auditor of State David Yost revealed the results (in a March 12th press release) of his project to test the effectiveness of Oelslager's legacy legislation.  

Yost's project is described by him, in part, thusly:
The Auditor of State’s office made a request for payroll records of all 247 cities in Ohio in October, as part of an effort to evaluate the format of electronic records and the ease of use and access to payroll records, which typically represent the majority of spending by local governments.
Oelslager (now state Senator Oelslager representing the 29th Ohio Senate District) must be generally pleased as he reads the results of Yost's survey insofar as the responsiveness of Stark County cities are concerned.

Canal Fulton, Massillon and North Canton need to do better.

Alliance, Canton and Louisville distinguished themselves.

Stark Countians and Ohioans owe a debt of gratitude to state Sen. Oelslager for his tireless work on making public records promptly available to Ohio's citizens.

Hopefully, Yost or another state official will test Ohio's cities again next year.

Will Canal Fulton, Massillon and North Canton do better?

Citizens of these respective cities should weigh-in with elected officials of these Stark County cities and insist that their response time dramatically improve.

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