Over the past week, this mild-mannered Watchdog reporter has been denounced as a shrew and likened to a snake. At least, we think it was a snake.
“I was wondering when Teri Sforza would slither out from under her rock to whine about first responders helping those in need,” chided a reader identified as only “Dr. Feelgood,” commenting on our story tracking the costs of local emergency workers responding to far-flung disasters.
If providing context and accounting for work funded with public dollars is whining, we responded, we are most happy to do it.
“She is a shrew,” Dr. Feelgood shot back.
This name-calling is a gift made possible by colossal advances in public access to public information over the last decade – advances that make news dinosaurs such as myself positively giddy.
When FEMA and local fire departments couldn’t (or wouldn’t) produce figures on what these emergency relief missions cost on the turn of a dime – and that’s the time currency we work in here – we were able to turn to an awesome federal database for answers.
“USAspending.gov is the publicly accessible, searchable website mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to give the American public access to information on how their tax dollars are spent,” this powerful engine says by way of introduction.
Want to trace federal dollars pouring in to California (or any other state)? See which giant corporations are getting giant federal grants, and for how much? See what FEMA is spending on urban search and rescue? You can do it all there, with just a few clicks. It allowed us to examine the possible impact of a Trump presidency on California when officials were still trying to hash things out.
There’s much to be concerned about as we mark the 50-year anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act:…