Today in OpenGov: Syracuse opens up, Steve Ballmer discovers government data, and more…


In today's edition, we examine Syracuse's push towards openness, ask some questions about a former Microsoft CEO's newfound interest in government data, track another round of Trump trademarks, share an open contracting challenge, and more…

states and cities

  • Syracuse, NY takes collaborative approach to crafting a new open data policy. "City Hall wants people to have easier access to things like code violations, pothole locations and other information they're seeking…Syracuse's innovation office is crafting an open data policy for sharing all sorts of stats on the operation of city government." ( The draft policy is up for public comment on the Madison platform. 
  • Hawaii's geospatial data portal like "Google Maps" for Aloha State government data. "Maps identifying everything from the locations of homeless shelters to ahupuaa boundaries are now available online to the public thanks to a partnership between the state Office of Planning and the Office of Enterprise Technology Serv­ices." (Government Technology)

The beltway, inside and out

  • Former Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer's went live, seeking to inform the public about how their taxpayer dollars are spent using government data. (Wired) Ballmer reportedly put $10 million into funding the development of the website which, as we highlighted last November, presents federal, state, and local data in an interactive online format. (New York Times) USAFacts published a report (yes, a PDF) modeled on the annual 10K financial reports that companies submit to the SEC. ( We heartily endorse the stated purpose of the project and agree that increased transparency will "help voters judge the effectiveness of our Government’s programs, improving the accountability that is essential to a well-functioning democracy."   
  • Balmer introduced the site at an event in New York yesterday. Watch the video below:

  • As stated in the methodology, USAFacts analyzed federal data about local programs, but it doesn't advance the field by opening up state and city spending data. Sunlight's Alex Howard praised the effort, while noting its disconnect from, and potential overlap with, existing open data programs: "It doesn't seem like Mr. Ballmer talked to people in Washington and in the open government community writ large about what existed already and what would be useful." He also expressed skepticism that the site's underlying data would be made open. (Federal Computer Week)
  • Meanwhile, efforts to revamp the Federal government's spending data are moving along. An alpha version of the new recently launched in anticipation of DATA Act reporting deadlines in May. 
  • In a blow to FOIA requesters, DOD and Joint Chiefs remove lists of classified directives from web. "FOIA requesters who relied on lists of classified directives published by both the Defense Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to know what documents to file FOIA requests for may now be out of luck. In a transparency backslide, both the DOD and JCS websites no longer publish lists of classified directives and instructions, making it impossible to know what to FOIA." (National Security Archive)
  • Transparency may be coming to secret hospital inspection data. "The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government." (ProPublica)

conflicts in trumpland

  • In complete coincidence, Ivanka Trump won approval for Chinese trademarks on the same day she dined with Chinese President. "In fact, on April 6, Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago." (Associated Press)
  • Meanwhile, "emoluments" suit against Trump expanded to include trademarks. A lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington against Donald Trump for allegedly violating the constitution's emoluments clause was expanded on Tuesday to include "gratuitous Chinese trademarks." (The Hill
  • Billionaire Trump adviser poised to profit from policy involvement. "Billionaire investor Steve Schwarzman’s newfound status as a trusted outside adviser for President Donald Trump has created blurred lines in which the Blackstone CEO is offering guidance on policies that could boost the fortunes of his company and his personal wealth." (POLITICO)
  • Trump's inauguration doubled Obama's previous record for fundraising. "President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee said Tuesday it raised $106.7 million for the celebration of his taking office in Washington, an amount that is roughly twice the previous record set by former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration." (Bloomberg) You can view the entire 510 page report here.
  • Trump's pledges to donate foreign profits, excess inauguration funds remain unfulfilled. Despite promises to do so, the Trump Organization has not yet disclosed any foreign profits that they have sent to the Treasury department or detailed the charities that will benefit from excess inaugural funds. (Washington Post)

around the world

  • Anticipating disaster by mapping vulnerable communities. "The Missing Maps project, an open, collaborative project, is working to fill in this “missing” information. Combining the work of volunteers contributing remotely, on-the-ground community leaders, and humanitarian organizations, the project works hand-in-hand with the OpenStreetMaps platform to collect data in a free and open manner." (Global Voices)
  • Open Contracting Challenge looks for ways to track government procurement. The $60,000 challenge prize from the Open Contracting Partnership and the Open Data Institute targets "big ideas to find better ways to manage, analyse, and monitor how government buys goods & services." Learn more and apply here!
  • Lobbyists take different approaches to influencing Brexit. "…figuring out how to influence the Brexit talks is a big headache for people who make their living lobbying EU institutions and governments. Some are trying to get to [Michael] Barnier [the EU's Brexit negotiator], some are focusing on key officials from the EU’s member countries and some are holding off to see how this unprecedented process develops." (POLITICO)
  • Spanish prime minister to testify in major corruption case. "The so-called Gürtel case, launched last October after nine years of investigations, implicates former lawmakers and civil servants from [prime minister Mariano] Rajoy’s ruling Popular Party (PP) in a vast kickbacks-for-contracts scheme that allegedly fueled Spain’s boom years." (POLITICO)

save the dates

  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis 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 20th, 12 PM, Webinar on "Kick-Starting Data-Driven Government". Hosted by Data-Smart project director Stephen Goldsmith. Register 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!
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. "This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership's new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments." Learn more 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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