Today in OpenGov: Transparency and ethics in Congress, open policy leads to better policy, and more
In today's edition, we explore how open policymaking has worked in Buffalo, get an update on the global open data index, learn about the President's lease, track talk of transparency and corruption in Congress, and more…
States and Cities
- The City of Buffalo showed how opening data & policy to the public can make both better. Sunlight's Noel Isama explored Buffalo New York's public approach to building an open data policy and shared advice for other cities looking to learn from Buffalo's example, arguing that their "process can be replicated not just for an open data policy but for other types of legislation or initiatives." (Sunlight Foundation)
- The Colorado Senate passed a digital open records bill that includes some concerning exemptions. According to the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, while the bill "was intended to clarify the public’s right to digitized government records in useful formats, such as spreadsheets," its author is concerned about a "very broad exemption, passed as an amendment, that would protect information on 'critical infrastructure.'" (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition via NFOIC)
- Social media helps shine a light on missing kids in DC. Every month around 200 juveniles –almost entirely black or hispanic — are reported missing in the District of Columbia. The DC police cite "a new social media strategy that uses Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to publicize the cases…" for an increase in awareness and attention around them. Similar strategies are taking hold across the country. (Vice)
around the world
- Updating the Global Open Data Index. Some changes are afoot with the Global Open Data Index including new project management, a more robust public Github account and more. Look for the latest iteration of the index to launch on May 2nd. (Open Knowledge)
- A strange scandal may affect Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's political future. "The furor has been bubbling away for weeks, after questions surfaced over how the Moritomo Gakuen foundation was able to buy publicly owned land in Osaka for a fraction of its market value. The kindergarten is known for making children bow to portraits of the emperor and recite a 19th century imperial decree on education — practices dropped elsewhere after Japan’s World War II defeat." Abe's wife has been accused of helping the school secure a sweetheart deal. (Bloomberg)
- Open data helps track deforestation, but strong FOI laws are key. "Laws that protect citizens’ rights to access information and promote transparency may be a key to protecting and sustainably managing the world’s forests. The WRI study, Logging, Mining and Agricultural Data Transparency: A Survey of 14 Forested Countries, finds that not only are Freedom of Information (FOI) laws effective in getting access to forest information, but countries with FOI laws tend to disclose concession data more proactively than countries without them." (World Resources Institute via freedominfo.org)
Transparency, corruption, and congress
- Congress must honor past commitments, shed light on ALL legislation. Alex Howard argued forcefully against efforts to push healthcare legislation through the House with little notice and less transparency. "This morning, we are faced with the U.S. House that sought to move forward on a health care bill in the dead of night, drafting legislation under cover of darkness and proposing changes to rules that will bring it to a vote before Members of Congress or their constituents have an opportunity to read it." (Sunlight Foundation)
- House Oversight considers a slate of transparency bills. At a hearing yesterday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform discussed bills including the DATA Act, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, the OPEN Government Data Act, and more. Coverage of the hearing appeared in Nextgov, Federal Computer Week, and FedScoop.
- Rep. Duncan Hunter under investigation for misuse of campaign funds. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) is under criminal investigation for allegedly spending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign money on family expenses including trips to Hawaii, private school tuition, and video games. Hunter has already reimbursed his campaign $60,000 to correct "mistaken payments for personal items," but remains under investigation. (New York Times)
- Former Rep. Stockman may have stolen nearly $800,000 from two charities. "Testimony in a plea deal from a onetime aide to former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman puts the total of money he is accused of taking from charitable contributions close to $800,000." This news comes in the wake of charges against Stockman filed last week alledging $350,000 in misdirect funds. (Roll Call)
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' stake in global shipping company may present conflict. "A Center for Public Integrity examination of Diamond S Shipping’s operations found its vessels sail under Chinese flags, even as Ross is being tapped to take an unusually muscular role shaping U.S. trade policy under President Trump’s "America First" mantra. The company has ties to a major Chinese investment fund, and one of its ships has traveled to an Iranian port." (Center for Public Integrity)
- The GSA cuts deal with Trump over lease on Washington hotel. "The government agency serving as a landlord for the Trump hotel that sits on federal property in downtown Washington has approved an arrangement where President Donald Trump will maintain a financial interest in the project but agree not to receive any profits or other funds while he serves as president." (POLITICO) The folks at the Project on Government Oversight feel that GSA's decision is "a contorted reading of the lease" and should be challenged. (Project on Government Oversight)
- Trump team adds some tech talent. "The White House has reportedly hired a veteran Republican strategist to serve as a technology aide to President Donald Trump…Matt Lira…will become the special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives." Lira has a long history on tech in both houses of Congress and the campaign trail. (Federal Computer Week) This looks like a step in the right direction, but we can't help but notice that our government is still lacking a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, and other key technology jobs.
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