Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “…budget issues and open government go hand in hand”

  • Despite the state’s spotty history with transparency, The Sunshine Review has just increased the Kansas state website’s grade from a B- to a B thanks to redesigns made by Governor Sam Brownback’s administration. Kirstin McMurray, The Sunshine Review’s managing editor, maintains that the site could be further improved  by disclosing  any lobbying that state-funded organizations do to secure federal help for the state. State Representative Kasha Kelley seems to agree, pointing out, “We’ve been so busy dealing with the budget that no one’s pushed transparency issues. I  think budget issues and open government issues go hand in hand. The less you have to spend, the more you have to account for it.” To get the whole scoop, read Gene Meyer’s post on Statehouse News Online.
  •  The Winchester Sun has asked Attorney General Jack Conway to review an executive session the Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation Board held before deciding to allow alcohol sales in a local park during a concert. The parks board responded, claiming that they had received legal threats from the public regarding the decision. According to the Kentucky Open Meetings Act, public bodies are required to conduct all of their business in an open session except when certain issues arise, including threatened or pending litigation. The Winchester Sun responded that the threat of legal action was “remote” and therefore the exemption did not apply. For the whole story, see Mike Farrell’s post on The Kentucky Open Government Blog.
  •  In 2005, the Boston City Council faced a lawsuit that revealed 11 deliberately secret council meetings with Boston Redevelopment Authority and Boston University officials in 2003-05. The meetings violated the state Open Meeting Law and the court fined the council $11,000.  This week, Judge John Cratsley ruled that the Boston City Council no longer needed court monitored meetings to ensure they met the state’s Open Meeting Law. Crastley maintains, “There has been a positive change in the Council’s attitude toward and attention to the requirements of the Open Meeting Law.” Transparency advocate Shirley Kressel, the plaintiff in the case, is not convinced. She claims, “The loss is not ours. The loss is to the citizens as a whole.” For John Ruch’s take, read his post on The Mission Hill Gazette Blog.  
  • Mayor Bloomberg has just launched NYC BigApps 3.0, a contest that challenges software developers to design mobile applications using official city data. The competition started in 2009 and is geared towards government transparency and improvement of the lives of New Yorkers. The fits nicely alongside Bloomberg’s stated commitment to increasing technology in New York. For more information, see Kristina Farrah’s post on Silicone Angle .