On Friday, the Northwest Herald took first and second place in the “Best Promotion of the Public’s Right to Know” from the Illinois Press Association. My former paper, The Herald-News in Joliet, took third.
That’s something to be proud of, because going after public records and informing the public are some of the most important things we do. We’re fighting for you, and we plan to continue.
You might not always agree that we should publish the information, but our goal is to get public information and then make those difficult decisions.
That’s why we seek information.
Information such as the names of the 17 people who aren’t allowed into the Old Firehouse Assistance Center in Woodstock.
They aren’t minors, they are residents. And they are being banned from a public assistance venue.
The McHenry County Housing Authority wouldn’t give us those names, calling it an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” I’m highly skeptical of that. Giving the names isn’t meant to violate anyone’s privacy, but it does humanize the story because these are real people.
So we plan to dig deeper on that.
The same is true with the report the Rabine Group produced for Highway Commissioner Andrew Gasser regarding Algonquin Township roads before he was elected. We believe he used it to inform his actions in his public office and that warrants it to be a public record.
We’ll keep trying to get that.
Another place I’d love to see more transparency is schools.
When putting together agendas, some districts try to slide through with a boilerplate line about hiring, firing and promoting staff while giving zero details.
In the past, I’ve appealed this as an Open Meetings Act violation, and the attorney general’s Public Access Bureau has ruled in cases of both Johnsburg and Huntley that they had to put clearer information on the agenda.
Now it’s Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 that is trying to defend keeping that information hidden from the public until its meeting.
I asked the district directly for the information first, which previously had worked with several other districts but was given a response that the personnel agenda was a “working document,” and thus wasn’t posted to the agenda.
So I have appealed to the attorney general again.
Why is this important?
Because school districts spend most of their budgets on personnel, and you should know what action they are planning to take before they take it, not after.
You’ve probably noticed a few new bylines in the past few weeks, and we’re happy to have them.
The first is Daniel Gaitan, who came to us from Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is covering Crystal Lake, the Crystal Lake school districts, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and plenty of breaking news.
This also was the second week for intern Mawa Iqbal, who wrote the cover story in Sunday’s Style insert on a McCullom Lake man who isn’t allowing an injury to keep him in one place.
We’re excited to have both of them here, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them if you have story ideas.
On Monday, intern Devin Martin is set to start. Hopefully you’ll see his name, as well as another full-time reporter’s, in the paper soon.