Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland often employs satire in this space. This is one of those times. Please read with satire in mind.
Rahm Emanuel’s first April Fool’s prank as mayor was joking that he was filing a Freedom of Information Act request “to learn more about himself, a topic that he considers to be extremely relevant and interesting to Chicagoans.”
“I look forward to receiving a response from the City of Chicago within the five business days prescribed by law,” Emanuel said in a joke press release. “I have cleared my schedule for next weekend and look forward to doing a deep dive into the documents. I plan to learn everything I can about myself, and I believe I will enjoy this greatly.”
But now that April Fool’s Day is over, and the mayor is back in City Hall, he has announced that he is denying his own FOIA request.
“There is no way I can hold frank conversations and engage in the kind of freewheeling discussions with my staff that are necessary for good policymaking if I know that the content of those discussions will become public,” Emanuel said today. “That’s exactly what I told the Chicago Tribune when they asked for e-mails related to my decision to install speed cameras all over the city.”
In response to a FOIA request from the Tribune, Emanuel’s administration released e-mails in which all information was blacked out, except the sender and recipient.
“FOIA doesn’t allow for everything,” Emanuel told the Tribune’s David Kidwell. “Certain information, when my staff has given me unfiltered opinion, I need that as a chief executive and that doesn’t mean you get to sit at the table.”
Today, Emanuel said that he has no more right to information about himself than the press or the general public.
“One of the things we said, when we were elected, is that the old days of clout and insider privileges are over,” Emanuel said. “It would be wrong for me to stand up here and say that I have any more right to know what the mayor is doing every minute of the day than the Tribune does, just because I myself happen to be the mayor. People are going to feel free to give me an unfiltered opinion if they know I’m going to be able to find out what they just told me.”
A spokesman for the Better Government Association disagreed with the mayor’s decision.
“An open government is always a better government,” the spokesman said. “We think the mayor can make better decisions if he’s allowed to know what he’s doing. Also, knowing the mayor, we’re surprised he doesn’t agree that his minute-by-minute activities are relevant and interesting to all Chicagoans.”
In the same session with reporters, Emanuel also announced that he plans to go to court to force himself to comply with the FOIA request.
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