The Senate took some steps forward last week to make its activities more transparent, but honestly, some of the most innovative and exciting stuff to make government more transparent is coming from individual lawmakers themselves (and in one case government) and enterprising organizations and citizens.
First, take a look at Freshman Senator Jon Tester posting of his daily schedule. How refreshing is this!? I hope others will pick up on his efforts to be really transparent about how he's spending his time, and on those of Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's too. (Sen. Tester's schedule and Rep. Gillibrand's can be found on their pages on Congresspedia too.) We hope that some of our readers will send what these two lawmakers are doing to their representatives as models for what it means to execute the public's business in a public way.
Rep. Steve Urquhart, The Republican Majority Whip of the Utah House of Representatives, has launched a new wiki that is focusing on improving access to legislative information. His wiki is called Politicopia, and through it he wants to make available information on "urgently-relevant" issues. He writes: "In just 5 minutes, my constituents will be able to look up actual issues that are moving through the political process, read a synopsis of the proposed action, see pro and con arguments, review comments and links, and check out the bill and its status. If they then want, they can jump into and shape the debate. In other words, they can be active, informed citizens. And I guarantee you, the policymakers will take note, because we are as starved for unfiltered, informed dialogue as the people are." See more details at the Personal Democracy Forum.
Next take a look at the distributed FOIA research tool that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics has launched in beta form (Full disclosure: Sunlight is a funder of this project.). It's a really neat combination of easy design, nifty tool and just plain fascinating stuff to look at. (OK at least fascinating to me – I admit to enjoying looking a raw documents). As blogger Tim Hooker has said "for anyone who is nosy, this is like dying and going to Heaven." Indeed.
And DoWire.org posts about an effort by the Korean government that's intended to "encourage citizens to discuss policy issues so that their opinions can be reflected in government policies…. One topic is selected every month and is discussed for the duration of one month."
Frankly, it's hard keeping track of everything that's going on to help make government more transparent. Help me by letting me know the new sites I am missing.