Today in OpenGov: Congressmen try to preserve data, journalists collaborate to open FEC data, and more…


In today's edition, California develops a state-wide water data portal, Washington prepares for upcoming DATA act deadlines, news nerds combine their powers against PDFs, Brazil finds a colorful way to fight corruption, and more…

states and cities

  • Louisville Mayor touts transparency, but keeps his meetings secret. Louisville, Kentucky Mayor Greg Fischer has made transparency a key part of governing philosophy. But, as it turns out, he hasn't extended that to his own interactions. "There is no public record of guests or visitors to the mayor’s office, according to a WFPL News investigation that sought to find who might have private influence over the administration during a time of city budget planning. The mayor’s office also denied a request for any other documents that show the name of anyone visiting Metro Hall to meet with Fischer, when they visited and for how long." In the past Sunlight has praised Fischer for his work on transparency, but as Alex Howard pointed out "Any administration that is putting its shoulder toward being more open and accountable to the public will embrace voluntary disclosures of influence as part of making sure that transparency and accountability don’t just end with a policy, but are actually borne out in spirit." (WFPL) You can find a more detailed statement on our Facebook page
  • California focuses on statewide water data platform. "This spring the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) jointly submitted a budget proposal that would put $2.9 million in fiscal year 2017-18 and more than $2 million each year thereafter toward the platform's development and maintenance." (Government Technology)
  • Report finds that "special districts" and authorities, which handle many public services, lack basic transparency. "When citizens turn on their faucet, visit a library or fly out of an airport, there’s a good chance they’re being served by a special district. These entities frequently spend hundreds of millions in public funds a year, but information about how those dollars are used is often scarce." (Governing)
  • ACLU, others sue LAPD for "systemic violations" of public records law. "The American Civil Liberties Union has joined with a journalist, a college professor and an activist to sue the Los Angeles Police Department over what they describe as a 'systemic violation' of California’s public records law. (LA Times via NFOIC)

data, data, data

  • New bill would preserve public access to public data online. A bipartisan team of Senators have introduced the Preserving Data in Government Act to ensure that once data has been made available to the public online it will remain available. Sunlight strongly supports this effort and we hope that Congress passes the bill quickly. Read more on the Sunlight blog
  • With DATA Act deadline approaching, officials stress that this is only the start. "The first deadline for the DATA Act, which requires all agencies to report spending in a standardized way, is on May 9. But that marker, officials say, is only the beginning." Some agencies have acknowledged that they will struggle to meet the upcoming deadline, but Congressional overseers and the agencies in charge of overall implementation are stressing that the process is ongoing and early struggles will do not equal failure. (FedScoop)
  • Financial transparency is a priority for the president, according to Trump aide. Despite the fact that some agencies are struggling to meet the upcoming DATA act deadline "…financial transparency is still a priority for President Donald Trump’s administration, Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives, told an audience in Washington Thursday." (Nextgov)


  • Reporters from competing publications collaborated to open up Trump inaugural data for the public. After President Trump's Inaugural committee filed its disclosure to the FEC in print and it was disclosed as a PDF, "news nerds" from ProPublica, the Wahington Post, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post worked together to clean up the data and published it as a more useable, open dataset. Then, they invited the public to act as  "citizen sleuths" to identify contributors. As a result of the issues they found, the committee has to refile. Get the whole story at OpenNews
  • Review of White House press pool reports sheds some light on who has access to President Trump. "Reuters analyzed more than 900 White House press pool reports to give the first big picture view, albeit an incomplete one, of who has had the most and least success at bending the president's ear." Those getting the most time include manufacturing companies and Wall Street players. Sunlight's John Wonderlich weighed in on Trump's decision to withhold public access to White House visitor logs, saying ""A public record of who has the president's ear is more important than it has ever been." (Reuters)
  • Transparency is not a Trump priority. "Nearly 100 days into his presidency, Trump hasn’t made keeping Americans informed about what his administration is doing a top priority – despite the many public signing ceremonies for executive orders and congressional resolutions." Sunlight's John Wonderlich summed it up nicely, saying "President Trump is not going to lead on any kind of transparency or accountability…[the White House's] default is whatever choice prevents discomfort and inconvenience." (The Miami Herald)
  • President Trump signs VA accountability executive order. "President Donald Trump visited Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters on April 27 to sign an executive order setting up a new office to crack down on problem employees and protect those who report waste, fraud and abuse." (Federal Computer Week) But will it really help whistleblowers? The move is the latest in a series of efforts to solve problems at the VA it it leaves many open questions. The Project on Government Oversight has the whole story and a recommendation for Congress to "conduct close oversight of the Central Whistleblower Office as well as the broader Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection." (Project on Government Oversight)

think global

  • Open data is making progress in the Caribbean, albeit slowly. "Unfortunately, progress in the Caribbean has been mixed, if not slow. While Caribbean governments were early adopters of Freedom of Information legislation–7 countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago) having passed FOI law–the digital channels through which many citizens are increasingly accessing government information remain underdeveloped." (Open Knowledge)
  • Indian government blocks social media platforms in Kashmir. "Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir have blocked 22 social media applications including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter." Authorities argue that the services are being used to disturb "peace and tranquility" and could be blocked for a month. (Global Voices)
  • Chrome extension serves as corruption scorecard for Brazilian politicians. "Released before what is expected to be the biggest general strike in decades, Colour of Corruption is an online political scorecard that details criminal allegations against members of the cabinet, the upper and lower houses of parliament, state governors, their deputies – and even the president." (The Guardian)

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.
  • May 6th: Sustainable Development Goals Data Archive-a-thon in Washington, DC. The SDG Data Archive-a-thon is an opportunity for programmers, archivists, scientists and volunteers of all kinds to help preserve publicly accessible federal data resources in the public interest. The goal of this event is to archive the datasets used to report on the SDG indicators and to ensure they remain accessible to the public online. This event is hosted by the Center for Open Data Enterprise. Learn more and register to participate 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." Learn more 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.
  • June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here


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