Our right to know

My response to Natalie St. John’s Feb. 27, story (“Records ordeal….” A1 and A8):

Ms. St. John provided a well-written, compelling case for the public’s right to know, relating her frustration at accessing Astoria police officials’ documents. Her investigative report concerned an Ocean Park resident who posted KKK-like flyers in Astoria, seeking to mobilize fellow homophobes.

St. John related how APD officials appeared worried about the safety of the perpetrator, Will Schaefer, while declining to provide requested information.

That incident attracted my attention too. As a former Oregon resident, I was aware of information disclosure statues such as the 1973 public records law that identified 550-plus exemptions (!) concerning “sensitive information.”

In 2017 the Oregon legislature tripped all over themselves, issuing four public record laws in an effort to generate greater public trust in state and local officials.

However, I’m not sure the Oregon Sunshine Committee provided enough clarification to prevent simple requests by Ms. St. John and others from becoming mired in obfuscation.

As a teacher of Freedom of Speech courses, ACLU member, and long-time advocate of the public’s right to know, I fully understand the slippery slopes Ms. St. John had to traverse.

Thanks for raising important questions about the First Amendment, the right to privacy, government transparency, investigative journalism, and just how much protection we citizens should allow for hate speech. Congratulations on raising some tough questions without easy answers.

ROBERT BRAKE

Ocean Park

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