Sunlight Weekly Round-up: Montana uses cost to clamp down on transparency


In our still on going campaign to tell our governors to support open government, we stand beside citizen activists who want to see an end to the roll back of transparency laws. We are dedicated to equipping the public with tools with-which to demand for accountability, and have developed various resources including open,  an open-source public resource website for government transparency and civic engagement at the state and local levels. So far, we have covered California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and Wisconsin with Minnesota to be launched soon.  Montana’s recent strike at open government reaffirms the need to continuously– as Pete Weitzel, former director of the Coalition of journalists for Open Government puts it– “turn a public official’s ‘right to no’ into your ‘right to know’.”

  • Last week, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a bill that would have created a website with the state’s budget and spending details. Proposed by Rep.Tom Burnett, HB 444 would have enabled the public to search, retrieve and download information about the state finances including state budgets, revenues, appropriations and expenditures. But Gov. Schweitzer thwarted the bill with claims that at an estimated $400,000, the website would be too costly and did not have an “ investment on return for the tax payer”. Michael Noyes writes more on Montana Watchdog.
  • The city of New York unveiled a “Road Map for the Digital City” — a project that will feature APIs for city data and plans that will change the way government information is presented online. Open government entrepreneurs are optimistic that the Road Map will give the city’s startups an advantage through integrating media and technology while widening access to wifi in public parks. Anil Dash, who is confident the web is a public space, adds that this would be a valuable opportunity for citizens to be engaged through technology. Read more on Anil Dash.
  • Last week, we highlighted a post that mentioned Oregon’s move to strengthen their public records. Now, A.J. O’Connell is writing that the opposition from some government agencies including the League of Oregon Cities, that  has hired lobbyists to try and prevent the bill from becoming law, may cause a problem. His attempt at reaching out to the state’s Attorney General to show that Creswell, his city, is not aligned with the lobbyists intentions, have been swept under the rug. What is he hoping to do next to save open government in Portland? Find out on A.J. for Creswell.
  • A bill that would limit the reach of public records in Raleigh, NC was proposed on the grounds that productivity of government workers searching for, organizing and providing information requested by the public, will be reduced. Daniel O’Leary is proposing an easier way: turning the documents into electronic format! Through LinDoc which creates electronic e-forms, that connect directly to a universal repository, the public and reporters are able to search and find public records for themselves, eliminating the need for government staffers to do this task. In cases where some records have to be paid for, O’Leary recommends using WebLink which is already being used by other states. Read more of his compelling argument on Capture Expert blog.