Today in OpenGov: Certifying What Works Cities, reviewing Mar-a-Lago, and more


In today's edition, we head to New York for the What Works Cities Summit, ask some questions about security at Mar-a-Lago, share a congressional wish list, and more…

What works cities

A number of Sunlighters are in New York for the 2017 What Works Cities Summit. The program, launched in 2015, now includes 77 cities. We are proud to have helped 50 of these cities open their data! The Summit is continuing today and you can follow along on Twitter at #WWCSummit17

  • Sunlight's Deputy Director Alex Howard shared our story, highlighting some of the work that we have done in cities ranging from San Jose, California to Buffalo, New York. You can view the slides from his presentation here.
  • What Works Cities certification. "What Works designed its newly-announced Certification program to recognize high-performing cities across [a number of] criteria, to create an objective standard of success, and to help cities at any point in the data journey understand how they can improve their practices." The program looks at performance across areas including open data, governance, analytics, results-driven contracting, and more. (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • The road to open data in Des Moines, Iowa. On February 20th Des Moines, Iowa passed a resolution officially establishing the city's open data program. We were there to help them develop and implement an approach to open data that addresses the distinct challenges faced by city officials and the community they serve. Sunlight's Noel Isama shared the whole story on the Sunlight blog.


  • No one knows who goes to Mar-a-Lago… Turns out there's a clear reason why the White House hasn't released visitor logs for Mar-a-Lago, the "Winter White House" that President Trump has visited regularly in his first few months in office: the Secret Service doesn't keep them and doesn't seem that interested in starting. "Former U.S. Secret Service officials tell POLITICO that the agency isn't equipped — with the time or money — to do the kind of legwork that would be required to produce logs for the president’s clubs. Agents don’t do it when the president goes to a hotel or other events away from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And they don’t see the benefit in chasing down the names of every person that a member or party host brings in and who they vouch for as a legitimate guest." (POLITICO)
  • …But the GAO might start asking why. "The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will review how President Trump secures classified information when he visits his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., according to a Tuesday Reuters report…It will also look at how the Secret Service screens Mar-a-Lago guests and examine the expenses of government employees who travel to Florida with the president, according to a letter the agency sent to lawmakers on Friday." (The Hill)
  • Trump's FDA nominee will recuse himself in cases involving former clients. "The Trump administration’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration plans to recuse himself for a year from FDA decisions on more than 20 companies, including some drug giants."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Major news organizations are increasing security amid increased tensions. "Some national news organizations have recently increased their security for employees as tensions continue to run hot toward the media." Newspapers like the Washington Post and McClatchy as well as broadcasters including CNN have begun to take security more seriously with a noted boost in efforts in recent months. (POLITICO)
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors is saving, indexing data in anticipation of Trump tactics. "Under normal circumstances, IRE's database library is a repository for journalists and academics looking to flesh out their stories and research with solid facts. Lately, however, it's become a refuge for records experts who fear that officials in the Trump administration may delete or cease maintaining records." (Poynter)

Elsewhere in Washington

  • National Archives rethinks presidential records for the social media era. "President Donald Trump may be the most prolific Twitter user the Oval Office has seen, but the National Archives and Records Administration is currently grappling with how best to store the vast number of social media postings, emails and digital documents produced by his predecessor's White House." (Nextgov)
  • A legislative wishlist for the 115th Congress. The Project on Government Oversight released a "Baker's Dozen," worth of asks for the 115th Congress with a focus on protecting whistleblowers, reforming contracting and acquisition procedures, increased executive branch oversight, and more. (Project on Government Oversight)
  • Oversight hears that agencies are struggling with IT reform. "Testifying before the House Oversight Subcommittee on Information Technology on March 28, [David] Powner [head of IT oversight at the GAO] pointed to the still-limited management authorities, limited partnering with industry and IT workforce deficiencies as recurring themes of failed IT projects." (Federal Computer Week

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