Last week was busy and exciting here at Sunlight as we marked another successful Sunshine Week. It was a great opportunity to not only share our work in making government more open and transparent but to hear from others about their progress in matters of freedom of information. Here are some highlights from Sunshine Week 2013.
Open States Transparency Report Card
We released our very first Open States Transparency Report Card on March 11, which rated all 50 states and DC on the openness of their legislative data. We evaluated each state across six factors — completeness, timeliness, ease of access, machine readability, use of commonly owned standards and permanence — to get grades from A to F. Our Open State project also received kudos from the New York Times data team, as it recommended the Open States API as the best resource for those who want legislative data about New York state since the paper was shutting down the API it created.
Sunlight Speaks Out
Throughout Sunshine Week, Sunlight staff participated in a number of events to commemorate the week and address the work we do. Thanks to all who kicked off the week at our DC happy hour to celebrate President James Madison’s birthday. Head over to our Flickr page to see all the festivities from last Monday.
On March 12, Editorial Director Bill Allison was in Philadelphia speaking at WHYY’s public forum on Open Data 101. He was a panelist along with the head of Pennsylvania’s Open Records Office Terry Mutchler, New Jersey open records expert Marc Pfeiffer and Holly Otterbein from WHYY. Follow the evening’s conversation on Storify or watch a video clip of the panel.
Also on March 12, Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman moderated a Congressional Transparency Caucus panel which brought together FOIA experts to explore ways the FOIA process could be improved and made more easily accessible to the public.
Daniel was on Capitol Hill again on Wednesday, this time testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. His testimony — which you can read about here — encouraged the Oversight Committee to continue its good work, to adopt the government’s best transparency initiatives, and to help the Obama Administration meet its pledge to be the most transparent once ever.
Bill Allison was back on the FOIA speaking circuit on March 14 at a National Press Club panel with award-winning reporter Charles Babcock, now an editor at Bloomberg News; Randy Rabinowitz, director of regulatory policy for the Center for Effective Government; Lisette Garcia, senior investigator at Judicial Watch.
We concluded Sunshine Week with two events. First, Policy Director John Wonderlich spoke at a National Freedom of Information Day panel at the Newseum, hosted by OpenTheGovernment.org and the First Amendment Center. There, he outlined how the Obama Administration could make real progress on open government. You can make out some of the faces that attended here.
Sunshine Week would not be complete without a #FOIA chat. Sunshine Review invited Bill Allison as a guest during its weekly Twitter chat, where he shared FOIA tips and walked participants through the FOIA request submission process. During the Twitter chat, Bill also shared some resources which you may find useful in your own pursuit of public records. In case you missed it, here is a Storify recap.
The important work that we all do around open government and freedom of information shouldn’t end at Sunshine Week. Visit our Participate page to get involved year round.