Sunshine Week: Optimism through the Clouds
After launching Sunshine Week with yesterday’s successful Advisory Committee on Transparency event, it’s a good time to reflect on positive transparency developments around the country (as opposed to yesterday’s disheartening news).
Among the inspiring stories that we came across recently, Sunlight was particularly struck by the work of a software engineering class at Virginia Tech. As the Washington Post reported, a professor picked up on the students’ desire to find their coursework relevant and dedicated a semester to build a mobile app for the university bus system. After a slew of prototypes and some extra funding, the impressive VT Bus Tracker debuted. It’s important to note that this application was only possible with a willing and proactive partnership with the bus system operators.
In light of budget shortfalls around the country, many states have yielded to public pressure to open their books and are putting their financial information online. In the past few months both Indiana and New Hampshire launched ‘Transparency Portals’ that centralize state spending data. These websites have plenty of room for improvement, but the Sunlight Foundation is excited to see the states dip their toe into the growing community of public officials who recognize public information should be online.
Last week we were interested to watch developments in lobbying disclosure at the state level in Georgia. According to an article in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission is hoping to vastly expand the definition of a lobbyist and allow e-filing across the board — both principles the Sunlight Foundation includes in our Real Time Online Lobbying Transparency Act. While the proposals in Georgia are hardly perfect, any serious deliberation of lobbying reform is admirable and the Sunlight Foundation encourages these discussions.
What other rays of sunshine are we missing? Tweet @sunfoundation or use the hashtag #sunchat to join us this Thursday for a special Sunshine Week twitter chat.