Open Government Seminar series heads to Houston

The 2018 series of regional Open Government Seminars continues May 1 in Houston.
The free seminars are hosted by the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, in cooperation with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The one-day seminars are designed for government employees, journalists, attorneys and anyone interested in the Texas Public Information Act and Texas Open Meetings Act. The first session was held at the University of Texas at Arlington.

President orders task force to study USPS finances, operations

President Trump signed an executive order April 12 creating a task force to study the financial difficulties of the US Postal Service and recommend restructuring the agency.
Most news reports indicate the move was prompted by the President's assertion that online retailer Amazon's deal for low shipping rates is hurting the postal service financially. 

Sunshine Coalition forms to promote open government in Texas

As part of the celebration of Sunshine Month in March, several Texas organizations joined forces to promote government in the sunshine.
The Texas Sunshine Coalition includes the Texas Press Association, the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Public Citizen, the Texas Association of Broadcasters and other organizations. The new coalition’s website is and social media channels are in development.

See, there was a time when traffic wasn't so bad on I35 in Austin

As the 55th session of the Texas Legislature opened in 1957, this photo was on the cover of the February edition. The cutline boasted Austin's population had reached 190,000, making it the state's fifth largest city. In addition to a new courts building under construction northwest of the Capitol grounds, it was noted that "on nearly every vacant lot, a building of some sort was going up." (Bill Malone photo)

DOC adds heavy tariffs on North American paper supply

A second blow against community newspapers was announced this week by the U S Department of Commerce in the form of heavy tariffs on the North American paper supply.
A preliminary decision in an anti-dumping case brought last summer by northwestern US producer NORPAC came from the Department on March 13. Commerce said it was ordering duties up to 22.16 percent on Canadian newsprint production, to be added to the January assessments of 4.4 to 9 percent from a related case on countervailing subsidies.  

Newsprint tariff at the discretion of DOC

WASHINGTON — The Department of Commerce can legally use its discretion to mitigate the impact of proposed tariffs on newsprint so that job loss from a proposed set of duties on Canadian paper is minimized, a group of publishing organizations told the DOC in February.

During ‘Sunshine Month,’ put spotlight on government accountability

Shining light on government to hold it accountable is hardly a new idea. In fact, Texas was a national leader in this realm for more than 40 years.
Sadly, the flow of public information in this huge state is slipping from the sunshine into the shadows.

This column by FOIFT Director Kelley Shannon is available to Texas newspapers to use as a guest column during Sunshine Week.