By Mike Sherry, former board president

As usual, the annual conference of the National Freedom of Information Coalition provided a lot of food for thought.

Given that it took place in New Orleans, this year’s conference also provided some good victuals as well.

I attended the May 17-18, 2013, conference, as did President Emeritus Jim Robertson. I’ve been to several of these conferences, and I can definitely say that this is the first one where I sampled turtle soup. In fact, dinner on Friday night was the first time I’d ever eaten the delicacy.

One of the most interesting presentations at the conference came from keynote speaker Waldo Jaquith, billed in our program as an “open government technologist.” He briefed us on his project, The State Decoded, which turns a state’s dense legal code into something that the average citizen can read, understand, and search. I hope this is something the Missouri Sunshine Coalition can take the lead on in bringing to our state.

The conference also featured a lively discussion on the use of the “deliberative process” privilege invoked by governors.
Apparently, chief executives in several states are claiming this allows them to shield many of their “predecisional” deliberations from the public. This is not something I’ve come across in Missouri, but it’s a trend that bears watching.
I also came away with some helpful ideas on how to build a sustainable organization, which is something that we as a board talked about at our retreat earlier this year.

All in all, this was another enjoyable conference put on by NFOIC. Perhaps we can host the national conference in Missouri one of these days.

Barbecued turtle, anyone?

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