Every year, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (of which I am a board member) bestows the John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award on a champion of open governent. This year's recipient is Mary Liz Holberg, who retired from the Minnesota Legislature last year after 16 years representing Lakeville. Holberg, a Republican who's now a Dakota County Commissioner, accepted the honor at a ceremony Monday at the Hennepin Central Library in Minneapolis.
Holberg was chair of the legislative civil law committee and the data practices commission, and remains a tenacious advocate for public records and open meetings. For her and many others, those issues go hand-in-hand with privacy, because of the constant tension between the government's collection on data on private citizens and citizens' ability to know what its government is doing.
At Monday's event, she recounted her tussle with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association over a huge database on private citizens, the Multiple Jurisdiction Network Organization, back in 2003. The scope of that "really schlocky database" was illegal, she said, and her willingness to speak out about it helped shut it down that year. The conflicts with law enforcement over data continue however, with debate now its third year over how long police can keep data from its license plate tracking cameras, she said.
Holberg said she sees plenty of resistance to open government at the county level as well. Asked for specifics, she pointed out a group that advocates for the Twin Cities' "collar counties" in regional issues includes three commissioners from each county, thereby avoiding a quorum that would require a public meeting.
Above: Holberg addresses the MNCOGI Freedom of Information Day observance Monday.