How you can use these laws

September 05, 2000

How you can use these laws

Many public documents can be relevant to your daily life. In most cases, all you have to do is ask the right person. If you are turned down, you can use the Freedom of Information Act. You might have to pay a fee to cover the cost of searching for and copying records.

Here are some examples of public information you can obtain:

Public and personal safety
HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You can ask your local police agency for reports of accidents near your home and use that information to lobby for a traffic light.

Home ownership

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> When house hunting, you can find out from the local planning office what kinds of developments are proposed or allowed to be built in your neighborhood.

- If you're interested in history, the county courthouse keeps records of all the previous owners of your home.

Community issues

- Whether you're for or against construction of a new minor league baseball stadium in Hagerstown, you can get copies of studies that have been done from the Washington County Commissioners and the Maryland Stadium Authority. If you missed a public meeting on the subject, you can get copies of the minutes at the commissioners' office or Hagerstown City Hall.


- If Wal-Mart is planning a Supercenter near your home, you can get details of its plans from the county planning office. That would include, for example, studies of how traffic would be affected in Funkstown.

- You can also ask the city and county governments if they are offering an incentives, such as tax breaks, for Wal-Mart or any new business.


- If you're concerned about what kind of pollutants a business is emitting, the Maryland Department of Environment can give you copies of air and water permits.

- You can also ask if the business has every been cited for violating its permit.


- When choosing a nursing home, check the Washington County Commission on Aging to find out the results of government inspections.

- Get the skinny on your favorite restaurant from the Washington County Health Department, which inspects restaurants for health violations.


- When you're considering which charities to support, get information about their budgets, including how much money is spent on administration, from the Maryland Secretary of State's Office.

- Find out how your tax money is being spent by getting copies of budgets.


- You can get tests scores for individual schools to see how your child's school compares to others. You could also see dropout rates, attendance rates, violence reports and more.

- You could see school construction plans for this and future years.

- The entire school budget is available.


- You can see minutes of all public meetings.

- You can get the salary of anyone who works for government in any capacity.

- Budgets of any government are available.

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