Today in OpenGov: When politics meets technocracy


In today's edition, we dig deep into data-driven cities, keep an eye on President Trump's approach to data and transparency, follow attacks on press freedom in Turkey, cover potential corruption in Congress, and more

the data-driven city

  • What can America's technocratic mayors learn from their political machine-driven predecessors? Anthony Williams, the former Mayor of Washington, DC and a self described technocrat, argues for a "Political Authority 3.0 at the local level—with the brain of the technocrat and the heart of the old ward heeler…" that deploys new "analytical horsepower in the service of long-time residents, connecting the data dots to jobs and improving the lot of still-struggling people." (CityLab)
  • NASA is engaging teens across the world to help develop a smart city platform. "Through A World Bridge (AWB), an international program led by NASA and Trillium Learning that allows students to contribute to federal technology projects, teens in the U.S. and internationally are co-developing a smart city platform that will help monitor resources like renewable energy, water, electricity and agricultural systems." (FedScoop)
  • Best practices — including a few from Sunlight — for data-smart cities. "With so many ways to plan the city’s digital future, where should a planning process begin? Below, we profile the digital strategies of three US cities, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, and innovations. While the plans vary substantially, they fall into two distinct types: plans that focus on the city’s open data program and plans that address data as part of a comprehensive technology strategy."(Data-Smart City Solutions)

Around the world

The World Bank mapped 25 years worth  of global forest gain and loss to mark the International Day of Forests.
  • Turkish journalists face a continued crackdown following last year's failed coup attempt. At least 81 journalists are imprisoned across the country and one paper has seen so many of its employees jailed that it is running a special shuttle service so their relatives can visit them. (New York Times)
  • German lawmakers fear Russian interference in upcoming elections following hack at parliament. "While the hack could be a case of old-fashioned espionage conducted with modern means — in part because of its similarity to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the United States, which the same Russian group reportedly pulled off a few months later — some German officials believe that the stolen information is more likely to be used as a weapon, making it a ticking bomb under the German elections in September." (POLITICO)

Crossing the line in congress?

  • The Supreme Court denied Sen. Bob Menendez's attempt to escape corruption allegations, setting him up for a criminal trial. "The New Jersey Democrat argued unsuccessfully that his prosecution violates the Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause, which limits investigations into the legislative work of members of Congress." Menendez is accused of accepting $1 million worth of campaign  contributions and luxury travel in exchange for intervening on behalf of a friend in disputes with the federal government. (Bloomberg)
  • Former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) jailed on election law charges.  "According to a complaint, Stockman set up a non-profit called Life Without Limits in 2011 that received a single $350,000 donation. Stockman is accused of funneling that money back to himself through payments to employees." (Roll Call)
  • Examples like that of former U.S. Senator Mo Cowan show why the definition of a lobbyist should be expanded. General electric hired former U.S. Sen. William “Mo” Cowan as vice president of legal policy. As a former Senator, Cowan has unique privileges to access the Senate, a fact that could prove highly valuable for G.E. as Sunlight's John Wonderlich explained: “To have access to the grounds, and to have privileged access to where Senators are social with each other, where they’re relaxing, is an enormously valuable benefit…Especially with the Senate, which is designed to be a sort of chummy institution where deals are made in informal conversation, and where personal connections are more important than in the House.” Cowan, who filled outgoing Sen. John Kerry's seat for less than 24 weeks in 2013, has not registered as a lobbyist, which would restrict his privileges. (Boston Herald)

Trump on Data and Transparency


  • Trump's continued refusal to comment on open government and open data plans is cause for concern. Engadget went deep on the new administration's approach to federal data, highlighting two approaches that may prove harmful including making data harder to find and cutting budgets so data is harder to collect. Sunlight's Alex Howard weighed in, citing the White House budget proposal and the risk that "Congress [could defund] agencies in a way that affects their ability to collect or maintain or disclose data." (Engadget)
  • Trump can also choose to end longstanding transparency commitments, as he did this week with the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative. U.S. EITI civil society members explained in a statement: "The Department of the Interior has halted U.S. efforts to seek validation by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global anti-corruption effort to bring openness and accountability to the oil, gas and mining sectors. As civil society members of the U.S. EITI, we are saddened and alarmed that the United States will no longer comply with the standard of a crucial transparency initiative that it has supported since 2003." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • The census must remain apolitical to ensure the quality and integrity of its results. The Center for Data Innovation's Daniel Castro made a strong argument against a proposed executive order that "would direct the Census Bureau to include questions about immigration status in the decennial census, an idea that Republican members of Congress previously proposed before the 2010 Census." The language would drive down the response rate among immigrant communities and put the overall integrity of the census at risk. (The Hill)


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