Open records…Math…don’t be scared!

OPEN RECORDS

You can make the request in any way you choose, such as via mail or in person. Make your request as specific as possible so the records keeper can find the record. You are not required to provide a written request, although you may want to do so to better clarify your request. If a written request would help the agency better identify and locate the records, the records keeper may ask that you write the request. However, the records keeper must inform you that a written request is not required by law. See Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(5). Note that the law only applies to existing documents. The law does not require the agency to create a record in response to your request.

Time limits

Ohio law does not specify any exact time limits in which the agency must respond to your request. However, upon receipt of your request, the office must “promptly” prepare the records and make them available for inspection. If you have requested copies of the records, these copies shall be provided to you “within a reasonable period of time.” See Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(1).

Costs

The public records law is unclear about the specific fees you may be charged for copies of records. Upon request, the office must make copies “at cost,” whch means that they cannot profit from your request. The office can charge for “the cost involved in providing the public record,” and you may be required to pay the fee in advance. See Ohio Rev. Code § 149.43(B)(6). The statute does not specify exact rates the agency may charge (such as a maximum cost per copy).

Bottom line: anyone can ask; document is better but not needed; record must exist and not be created. Can sometimes avoid simply by asking first.

Would there be outrage here if same method was used to teach about open records?

MATH!! MATH!! MATH!!

It can be incredibly useful. The AP counted railroad ties to determine train speed!

Comparison and context are hugely important. Steak houses vs. total campaign spending.

Here is a link to Labor Department data.

Here is lobbying info.

Here is Census Bureau starting point.

Want some energy info or gas prices? Here you go.

Looking for real estate records in Franklin County? BOOM!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: context and comparisons are key when dealing with numbers. Don’t just say 500,000 people lost their jobs. Don’t just the party cost $90,000. Show that 500,000 people live in Washington, D.C., and that’s like the whole city getting fired. Show that for the same amount as the party, someone could have bought 3 BMWs…maybe 2 fully loaded.

A WORD ON PERCENT VS. PERCENTAGE POINTS: If you’re bad at math, or just forget how to do a percent change calculation, use a website like this one.

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