Today in OpenGov: Tracking open data to Birmingham, digging into Trump’s inauguration donations, and more…


In today's edition, we track open data to Birmingham, Alabama, dig into documentation on donations to President Trump's inaugural committee, share our suggestions for a new FOIA portal, and more…

states and cities

  • Birmingham, Alabama officially embraces open data. Mayor William A. Bell signed an executive order ushering in an era of open data in the Alabama city. Birmingham will work with OpenGov to build an open data portal. Read Birmingham's press release announcing the move. 
  • "Smart cities" must have clear policies around data use and privacy. Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal looked at the rise of smart cities, prompting us to point out the need for clear, accountable methodologies when it comes to data use and predictive analytics. When ever there's a gap between what the public knows about how governments collect data, about whom and when — or how it's used — and what's actually happening, it damages public trust. Read our full statement on Facebook
  • How Kansas City, Missouri inventoried and improved its data, boosting transparency. "When Chief Data Officer Eric Roche realized how much time he was spending updating out-of-date, non-automated open data in the city’s portal, he embarked on a project to understand and inventory the data in all departments to develop a more systematic approach to open data publishing in the city." (Government Technology)
  • A year later, fears around Washington, D.C.'s police body camera policy appear unfounded. During a 2015 debate over the policy mayor Muriel Bowser "fought to prohibit public access, in part with forecasts that the District faced sky-high costs–more than a million dollars a year–for new staff to handle time-consuming review of an expected 4,500 requests a year." After a year, only 60 requests for footage have been filed with costs only reaching $25,000. (DC Open Government Coalition)

Money in politics

  • Ann Ravel and Zach Galifianakis talk dark money. Former Federal Election Commissioner Ann Ravel joined comedian Zach Galifianakis to talk about dark money and its influence on our political system as part of the "docu-series" America Divided. Watch the video on YouTube or check it out below.
  • Trump's inauguration powered by corporate powers and business titans numerous million dollar donations. "Numerous corporate powerhouses and individual business titans — including fossil fuel, financial and food and beverage interests with lucrative business before the federal government — helped fund President Donald Trump's inauguration, according to a new disclosure filed with the Federal Election Commission." (Center for Public Integrity) Around 45 individuals or corporations donated at least $1 million to the inaugural committee, with Sheldon Adelson dropping $5 million on the festivities. (The Hill)
  • Filing reveals inaugural donors, but spending remains a mystery. "Though this report shows how much money Trump's inauguration brought in, it does not detail exactly how that money was spent. Presidential inauguration committees do not have to disclose that to the FEC." (NPR)

Washington Watch

  • Office of Special Counsel files briefs supporting two defense whistleblowers. "The Office of Special Counsel on Tuesday announced it had filed two amicus curiae briefs challenging judges’ rulings that 'restrict whistleblower protections for federal workers.'" (Government Executive)
  • DOJ and 18F team up to build new FOIA portal, seek public input. The Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy announced yesterday that they are collaborating with 18F on "the development of a National FOIA Portal." If you're interested in "joining the effort and providing feedback throughout the process" you can email the team at by April 28th. (Office of Information Policy) Last November, we shared a number of ideas about how to build a better by connecting FOI to open data. 
  • House Oversight chair declines 2018 reelection bid. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that he would not run for another term in 2018. (POLITICO) Chaffetz has so far seemed hesitant to perform energetic oversight against a President from his own party. We will be watching to see if that changes now that he doesn't have the politics of reelection to worry about. 
  • Watchdog to file suit for Trump Tower wiretap records. American Oversight, a Washington-based ethics watchdog group, is planning "to sue the Department of Justice for records regarding wiretaps of Trump Tower and the investigation into connections between members of President Trump's campaign and Russia." (The Hill)

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.
  • Today at 12 PM: Webinar on "Kick-Starting Data-Driven Government". Hosted by Data-Smart project director Stephen Goldsmith. Register here!
  • April 26th, 6:00 PM: "Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement" in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We'll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register 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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