Today in OpenGov: Off-Camera


In today’s edition we knock on Sean Spicer’s door, find an open road to Utah, and more…

Save the data

  • “A top Republican economist is lending a bipartisan note to concerns that the Trump administration will degrade the quality of the nation’s economic data…” through budget cuts and continued public skepticism about the quality of key federal data. (Bloomberg)
  • The 2020 Census is one of the programs most at risk, given that it has already been deemed “high risk” by the GAO. Wade Henderson makes a strong argument for fully funding it in The Hill.
  • The New York Times checked in on the “data rescue” efforts aimed at archiving and ensuring continued access to potentially vulnerable federal science data. One major problem? Knowing what data the government even holds. 

around the world

Some bad news out of Budapest: “The Hungarian government is moving to limit the influence of nongovernmental organizations that promote democracy and the rule of law, seemingly buoyed by Donald Trump’s election victory and the ascendance of the alt-right in Washington.”

The Hungarian parliament is expected to introduce legislation that would restrict NGO’s that receive foreign funding. “The government argues that the law is intended to counter foreign meddling in the country’s politics. Critics contend it is just the latest move to restrict political freedom in a country where the ruling party already controls much of the media and judiciary.” (POLITICO)

  • “Finance Minister Xiao Jie affirmed China’s commitment to transparency in its 19.5 trillion yuan ($2.8 trillion) budget, after excluding defense expenditures and other big items from a key fiscal report for the first time in almost four decades.” (Bloomberg)

Oh Spicer where art thou?

The White House is relying less on Sean Spicer’s televised press briefings “after two flayings on Saturday Night Live, sustained mockings on late-night shows, and a series of televised confrontations with reporters…” In fact, Spicer went at least seven days between televised briefings. Instead, the press secretary has been holding off camera “gaggles” while other administration officials have announced news at scripted press conferences. Yesterday Spicer talked to reporters off-camera for over an hour despite efforts by the White House Correspondents Association to get the session televised. (POLITICO)

Despite the camera ban, PBS Newshour was able to live-stream audio of the session via Periscope.

Tracking trumps conflicts

Yesterday President Trump sat down with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for a meeting in the oval office. Just a few hours later the White House released “an official statement congratulating Exxon Mobil Corp. on its plan to invest $20 billion expanding its manufacturing capabilities along the Gulf Coast.” The statement closely echoed Exxon Mobil’s press release on the plan, even going so far as to copy an entire “paragraph on the program’s background nearly word-for-word.”

Rex Tillerson stepped down as the CEO of Exxon Mobil on January 1st. His parting gift? A $180 million retirement package. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Pressure may be building for President Trump to continue the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs. “Seven Democratic senators sent a letter on Monday to President Trump and William Callahan, the Secret Service deputy director, asking that they continue the Obama-era practice and extend it to the Florida resort [Mar-a-Lago], which Trump has referred to as his “winter White House.” The White House Website currently indicates that the visitor logs are being updated and will be posted when they become available. (The Hill)

states and cities

We love this experiment in community engagement around open data in Philadelphia that aims to identify datasets that could be immediately useful if made open:


  • “Thanks to a program initiated in 2011 to begin surveys of state-owned roadways using light detection and ranging (lidar), the state now has a comprehensive list of all major roadway assets,” like stop signs, guardrails, shoulders, and more. (Government Technology)


This year’s Personal Democracy Forum, slated for June 8-9, will focus on What We Do Now in the face of threats to “Constitutional principles of free speech and assembly; basic democratic values of tolerance, inclusiveness, and human rights for all; and fundamental assumptions about government’s accountability to the people.”

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