Dec 21, 2010

My visit to the Governor's office - a final Baldacci freedom of information moment

Drove through the sleety rain from the Penobscot Bay coast to Augusta, pleasantly surprised to discover my  mp3  was full of Yes and Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow. The miles melted away as the Camden Hills rose and receded, and the lakes shimmered past, their frozen edges portending icefishing in times to come.
Suddenly it was Augusta and then flash forward and the patient receptionist at Governor Baldacci's office  has registered my appointment and bade me wait in the seating nook under the grand staircase of the echoey empty Hall of Flags, where lobbyists awaiting the Governor cool their heels.  

The capitol is absolutely throbbing with political life forms (except in still-barely-Governor Baldacci's office, where the dutiful staff  have boxes piled up around their cubicles, but continue to answer constituent calls otherwise do the gubernatorial thing to the bitter end, when the lights go out on the Baldacci Administration.)

But in a flash Karla Black was there, leading me to the empty governor's conference room, where about two reams of paper documents await my inspection.   Ever efficient Black has provided mini-postits to stick on "keeper pages" that I want copied.

Then the door shut and I was alone with my roughly thousand pages of documents, and 2 hours to peruse them and select which to keep which not.  (For I know I have a great multitude of them already through a federal FOIA request of BOEMRE (pronounced "Bummer"). Why pay a quarter a page for 100s of pages I've already got?)

So I took the stack and split the trump into months.  Then It was time for the Great Sift:  I started speed reading these government emails (all of which were addressed to Karin Tilberg, the Governor's special assistant for renewable energy, either directly or she was cc'd,).  Key names like Maureen Bornholdt, Habib Dagher,  Aditi Mirani, Stacy my own name.  

Hah! How they howled, it turns out, as I lashed them - the feds and state officials -by blog and by tweet, by facebook  and e-lists, and in the mainstream and  fishery press!  A handful of aroused coasters came down on the governor and politicians and bade them threaten not their livelihoods, forcing officials state and federal to parley to come up with rebuttals or, worse, to come up with means of ignoring the concerns.

On through the pages I plowed, in their tens and hundreds. Some months held but a mere dozen or two emails, another month  half a ream's worth.....An hour and a half passed before I sat back and surveyed the documents divided into keepers and leavers. 

Then it was time, and I stacked them into two stacks, picked up my debris, and returned to the quietly busy governor's office. (No sign of His Nibs).The receptionist pressed a button and Karla Black came out from the inner sanctum. From governor country. Public stay out.

Karla was a little surprised at how many  pages I wanted  - about 250. The last time there I'd only kept  dozen out of of  around 300 pages.

She warned me that the cost would be 25 cents/page. (I'd hoped it was a dime, like MDEP sometimes charges per page). But then she cut me a deal on postage, so we parted amicably amd I sailed back down Route 17, homeward bound.

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