Today in OpenGov: The life of a watchdog in the Trump era, body cameras in the Big Apple, and more


In today's edition, we consider New York City's new police body camera policy, push for changes to Foreign Agents Registration Act reporting, explore how watchdog groups are dealing with the Trump presidency, roundup a slate of events, and more…

states and cities

  • The NYPD's new body camera policy falls short on key accountability issues. "The New York Civil Liberties Union remains concerned that the policy is not sufficiently targeted at ensuring police accountability because it gives police too much control over the footage that’s collected." (NYCLU) Read more about the policy at The Verge and take a look at, which outlines some best practices for police body camera policies including the importance of accountability and public engagement. 
  • Lawmaker calls on Alabama governor to resign in advance of impeachment proceedings. "Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon called on Gov. Robert Bentley to resign from office immediately, days before impeachment proceedings into the governor's billowing sex scandal are scheduled to begin."  (CNN)
  • Arizona Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a campaign finance reform bill. "Gov. Susana Martinez, who has touted herself as a champion of transparency, on Friday vetoed a piece of legislation that would have required greater public disclosure by those who spend big money in New Mexico political races." (New Mexico in Depth via Election Law Blog)
  • Boston launched a new data portal last week. The city is also running an Open Data Challenge through April 24th to encourage use of the data. (via Michael Morisy on Twitter)


  • "The Nightmarish Existence of the Watchdogs Keeping Tabs on Trump." Vice goes deep on the new reality for Washington watchdogs "in an era of reality TV presidents and alternative facts." Sunlight's executive director John Wonderlich weighed in on how it felt to realize that, if elected President, Trump would not have to divest from his various business interests: "It was hard to advocate for and discuss with Congress, because it felt like a cry wolf situation to warn of something that seemed so unlikely…It was also hard for members of Congress to conceive of the American presidency as something that came with branding deals."  (Vice)
  • DOJ refuses to release U.S. Attorney's letters of resignation. The Burlington Free Press asked The United States Department of Justice for the letters of resignation submitted by the U.S. attorneys at the request of the Trump administration. In response, the rejected the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the letter because they were "inherently personal." FOIA experts took exception to the decision. Sunlight's Alex Howard weighed in: "This is the public's business. It's not private business…Some of the greatest power in our system, a prosecutor in the United States government — their conduct, their work, their interactions are of great public interest. Overbroad exemptions don't serve the public's interest." (USAToday and The Burlington Free Press) We hope the DoJ reconsiders their decision.
  • Watchdogs sue for access to Trump White House visitor logs. The White House won't commit to disclosing visitor logs. Now, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the First Amendment Center at Columbia University in the City of New York and the National Security Archive will file suit for disclosure (Washington Post)
  • The 2020 census faces threats in the form of budget shortfalls, potentially limited participation stemming from President Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric. "But census-watchers are increasingly warning that the 2020 Census could be hobbled…The Census Bureau was one of few federal agencies outside the Pentagon to get an increase in Trump's 2018 budget—but that $100 million increase is misleading, because the House and Senate had already each proposed to increase the Census Bureau’s funding by around that amount for 2017. So at a time when the Census needs to be ramping up sharply—it had requested a 21 percent increase for 2017, or $290 million—Trump’s 2018 budget represents no increase at all." (POLITICO)
  • DHS ends pursuit of account information after Twitter fights back in court. "The Department of Homeland Security is backing off demands that Twitter disclose the identity of users posting criticisms of the Trump administration’s immigration policy in the guise of a rogue employee at the account @ALT_uscis." (Federal Computer Week)

elsewhere in washington

  • FARA data collection and distribution must be modernized. Sunlight joined a number of watchdogs on comments regarding the Justice Department's process for collecting and distributing information under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  You can read the entire document here.
  • Congressman's attempt to ban video at town hall attracts scrutiny. Event invite language banning video recording "attracted the ire of local Indivisible groups, which have frequently taped their interactions at town halls, resulting in awkward media coverage for the members of Congress. The American Civil Liberties Union, after spotting the Eventbrite language, suggested that it might violate laws around free speech." (Washington Post)

save the dates

  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets here! This one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress. 
  • April 13th: Ignite Night and Happy Hour at the OpenGov Hub in Washington, DC. "This event will feature a series of several Ignite-style lightning talks (exactly 5 minutes, with 20 slides that auto advance every 15 seconds) about some of the latest exciting projects from OpenGov Hub member organizations, including Open Data Watch, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Global Integrity, and more!" Register to attend here.
  • April 25th: TICTeC in Florence, Italy. Hosted by mySociety and "Returning for a third year, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference focuses on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having on citizens, decision makers and governments around the world." Learn more and register to attend here.
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. "Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress." Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. "Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress." Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. "The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen." Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here
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