Letters to the Editor
Dog gone: Thank you for your story on the HSPCA ["Lost Dog," Hair Balls, by Richard Connelly, May 18]. As a follow-up to your report, I would suggest that you wade through the HSPCA Web site (www.spcahouston.org) to see if you can find anywhere on the site any mention of euthanasia, and see if you agree or disagree with Alice Sarmiento's comment that the HSPCA is "honest about the fact we're not a no-kill facility." Even their Lost and Found link does not address the issue of nearly two-thirds of the animals presented to the facility being euthanized, although it does admit to sending others to Harris County and the City of Houston, which coincidentally helps the HSPCA's euthanasia statistics.
The bottom line of the sad story of Harley's demise is that it repeats itself daily in every open-door shelter in Houston, as well as other shelters throughout the United States where admissions are unrestricted. I find it dishonest that private shelters such as the HSPCA, CAP and Houston Humane Society, to name a few, choose to gloss over this stark reality while allowing the government-run animal-control facilities to be the fall guys in this equation. John Q. Public needs to know that there are approximately eight times too many pets for available homes in this country.
What an Act
Credit report: I saw the article you wrote and enjoyed it ["Needling the Haystack," by Keith Plocek, May 18]. I especially appreciated the fact that you did give notice to those who did do their jobs properly. I don't think we ever give enough credit to those who do.
Two things in your story are a little misleading. While agencies don't have to post the actual laws, they are required by law to post information about the public information act. Here's a link to the official sign, www.oag.state.tx.us/opinopen/pia/pia.shtml, with the wording agencies are required to have clearly visible.
The other is the cost. Agencies can't start charging for labor until after 50 pages, except in very limited circumstances.
Otherwise, it was a great article, and I know a lot of work went into it.
Katherine Garner, executive director
Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
Why's not important: Great work on the public records requests at the school boards. You really grasped -- and presented to the public in a clear way -- the rationale behind not having to say why you want public information. That's some genuine shoe-leather reporting, and citizens are in your debt.
I do a lot of work for the Society of Environmental Journalists' First Amendment Task Force, and we very much appreciate the willingness of reporters to go out, fight those public records battles (even in the cool, backdoor and very effective way you did) and then write about it to tell the public.
Wrong decade: Instead of wasting really expensive gas, why not go to the school district's Web site first? You could have gone to www.ccisd.net for the Clear Creek Independent School District and filled out your public information request, all from the comfort of your living room. Maybe your rating system should have started in this decade, with whether a district has a Web site with this feature available. I put in a request online with CCISD and received my response within one day. Welcome to 2006! (And I didn't have to waste gas.)
Tin foil what? I thought the story was great! With a light hand, the reporter put a bright spotlight on an important issue: open government. I think the reporter paved the way for regular citizens to get better treatment. We need more of this type of reporting.
Now, if I can just figure out where the wonderful phase "tin foil activist" came from, my day would be made.
You are my new hero: What a tremendous story on open records and transparency in school districts. We found similar inconsistencies when we FOIA'd around 60 school districts and one asked for around $50,000 to fulfill our request. Another just e-mailed it to me. I anticipate that your visit was discussed among the superintendents, and I was wondering if those you contacted later were more or less responsive. Hats off for doing a real public service by not only educating everyone on the open records law but also naming names -- those who did well and those who did not. That's helpful to the taxpayers who are paying those bills you asked about.
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